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Synthetic Biology and Regenerative Organic each Had a Real Presence at Natural Products Expo West 2022

After having been canceled in 2020 and 2021, Natural Products Expo West returned last week to Anaheim for its 41st show, put on by New Hope Network.

While it was a very joyful time to see familiar faces after two years of hibernation, organic advocates faced the reality of having GMO 2.0 technologies becoming pervasive at their largest and most important gathering in the country, a shocking and incredibly disconcerting development.

Here are some of the key highlights, takeaways and trends from Expo West 2022.


motif foodworks expo west 2022 synthetic biology

perfect day brave robot expo west 2022 synthetic biology

Despite the fact that this is a “natural” products expo, there were numerous companies selling products made with synthetic biology, or “precision fermentation” — a fancy marketing term to hide the fact that this is a very risky and unproven GMO 2.0 technology. Precision fermentation typically requires the use of genetically-engineered microorganisms, which are cultivated in brewery-style fermentation tanks. Needless to say, there is nothing “natural” about this.

The presence of these food-tech start-ups, such as Motif FoodWorks and Perfect Day’s Brave Robot, has many organic advocates very upset.

“New Hope has made incremental progress on racial equity and diversity issues, yet it has taken a big step backward when it comes to food sovereignty. With billions in VC cash up for grabs, it’s not surprising to see New Hope compromised,” put forth Errol Schweizer, industry expert and former VP of Grocery at Whole Foods Market.

“These companies are trying to use us all to give their ‘un-natural’ products the ‘natural’ glow. I hope our industry will reject them from future shows,” said Mark Squire, co-owner of Good Earth Natural Foods.

“It seems that even with all the smarts and savvy in the natural products community, we have failed to understand that we are being targeted by a coordinated global campaign to force the adoption of synthetics in natural channels,” said Alan Lewis, VP of Advocacy at Natural Grocers. “The campaign is spawn of the notorious GMO lobby, now emboldened and backed by technology moguls. New Hope’s decision to actively promote syn-biotech is a direct threat to the thousands of small brands it claims to champion.”

During The State of Organic & Natural keynote presentation (start at the 48-minute mark), New Hope, Whipstitch Capital and SPINS were advocating for cultured proteins (GMO 2.0) as a way to maximize the global population.

“The only way we are going to meet demand, as a planet, is through cultured meat,” offered Nick McCoy of Whipstitch Capital, with apparently no consideration that he was at a “natural” products food show. Let’s be clear — this is laboratory-grown meat.

Perfect Day, Atomo Coffee and Remilk — all GMO 2.0 companies — were presented as examples as the first products to the U.S. market.

New Hope’s stance on this matter is all about transparency. The organization also claims to be agnostic when it comes to GMO 2.0 food technologies, yet that is disingenuous. It is simply not true. New Hope is a proponent of them.

How do we know this?

Because it has these companies present at its trade shows.

Because it advocated for these technologies during its State of Organic & Natural keynote presentation, even though GMO 2.0 technologies have nothing to do with “organic” or “natural.”

Companies that are against GMOs do not sell or promote them.

The organic industry should be deeply disturbed and alarmed by what is happening. These risky and novel food technologies are being normalized, and we are being conditioned to simply accept them without fully understanding the long-term implications.



regenerative organic certified cacao powder navitas

Even though COVID put a massive dent into the growth and momentum of the Regenerative Organic Certified (ROC) add-on label, the enthusiasm for this program has never been stronger.

Dozens and dozens of brands either had ROC products, want to have a full line of ROC products or are in the process of trying to achieve ROC status.

Due to the limited supply chain of raw ingredients, the number of companies able to achieve ROC is relatively small right now, especially with multi-ingredient products, but with more ROC certifiers coming on board, that is only going to grow with each passing day.

Yet, the biggest asset that ROC may have is that ROC-certified companies are incredibly vocal about spreading the word and raising awareness of this label.

As we have been predicting and writing about for the past few years, ROC was poised to become the new gold standard in organic. As far as I am concerned, it is already there.



numi organic tea carbon neutral certified

carbon neutral certified

With climate change an increasingly important factor in purchasing decisions, brands are becoming more proactive in reducing their carbon footprint. They are also moving in this direction because it is the right thing to do.

As such, it is not surprising to see more and more brands embrace the Climate Neutral certification, such as Numi Tea and Nuun.



There is only so much real estate on a product, and given that real-time data is often dynamic, QR codes have become a great tool to provide useful information to shoppers.

The best use of QR codes that I saw at Expo West was from Alexandre Family Farm. Shoppers can scan the QR code on the product and get the exact level of fat content from that specific batch, as the level of fat content can vary from batch to batch.



One of the most exciting trends in the dairy industry is A2 milk.

Since A1 beta-casein can be difficult for some people to digest, a small number of organic farmers have decided to breed cows that only express the A2 beta-casein. However, this is not an explosive category from a supply perspective, largely because of a lack of A2 milk processing facilities and having to breed a completely different type of cow.

Several years ago, organic A2 was not present at all. Now, a handful of brands are marketing it, most prominently Alexandre Family Farm and Bellwether Farms.



Banana flour had a high-profile emergence in 2018, yet I started seeing it in more packaged goods at this most recent show, such as how Organic Traditions is using it in its pancake mix.

For a variety of reasons, banana flour makes a great deal of sense, not only for texture purposes but it may help lower blood sugar levels and has excellent prebiotic effects.




Organic coconut sugar is a very popular, sustainable and low-glycemic sweetener. However, according to Ben Ripple, co-founder and CEO of Big Tree Farms, coconut sugar has not been widely adopted among many larger CPG brands because of its fluctuating level of quality and consistency.

To solve this issue, Big Tree Farms has come out with something called Vacuum Evaporated Coconut Nectar (VECN).

When compared to traditional coconut sugar, VECN has improved solubility, 30% lower moisture content and significantly reduced caramelization, creating a product with a wider scope of use in manufacturing, especially for the chocolate/confection, instant beverage/meal replacement and baking industries.

As a pioneer in the coconut sugar space, Ben Ripple told me that VECN has the potential to completely change the game. I think he is right.

Please Note: Due to technical issues, My Top 5 Organic Products from Expo West 2022 will be delayed. My apologies.

With gratitude,

Max Goldberg, Founder

New Organic Products

New Organic Products

Spicy Coconut Aminos from Coconut Secret

Expanding its coconut aminos line, Coconut Secret has come out with a spicy version. With a sweet-umami, spicy flavor, this first soy sauce alternative contains 72% less sodium than the leading soy sauce brand. It delivers Asian-inspired taste to stir-fries, marinades and dips. Soy-free, gluten-free, Whole30 and keto-friendly.

Matt50 from Uncle Matt's Organic

Uncle Matt's Organic, the leader in organic orange juice, has unveiled Matt50. This orange juice beverage contains half the sugar and calories as regular OJ and is boosted with 100% DV Vitamin C, plus prebiotics and probiotics for gut health and immune support. Available for purchase on the company's website and at Whole Foods Market and Sprouts nationwide.

Pear Reishi Energy Elixir from Garden of Flavor

Garden of Flavor has announced that it has reformulated its Pear Reishi Energy Elixir to include two additional superfoods -- lion’s mane and chaga mushrooms. Combined with organic pear, lemon, guayusa, reishi and probiotic cultures, this cold-pressed energy elixir is available online and at retailers beginning this month.

Tempeh Cubes from Lightlife

Joining the brand’s growing portfolio of other tempeh products, Lightlife has just introduced its new organic Tempeh Cubes product. Pre-cut, pre-seasoned and offering 13 grams of protein per serving, they come in three varieties -- teriyaki, southwest and tikka masala. Available at retailers nationwide.
This Week's News Items

Weekly News Summaries

First Course
PR Newswire

Organic Valley Launches Single Largest Effort to Date to Save Northeast Organic Family Farms

Having had their contracts cut by Danone and Maple Hill Creamery, organic dairy farmers in the Northeast have been given an incredible lifeline from Organic Valley.

Food Dive

Coconut Bliss rebrands as Cosmic Bliss, Adds Grass-Fed Organic Dairy Line

By Megan Poinski

Jason Karp, HumanCo's founder and CEO, is keeping the company's plant-based offerings but is adding a grass-fed organic dairy line in order to appeal to a much broader consumer base.

Center for Food Safety

FDA Sued Over Failure to Release Documents Regarding Approval of GE-Salmon, Production Facility

Center for Food Safety filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the FDA for unlawfully withholding records regarding the FDA's environmental assessment of genetically-engineered salmon and a planned Ohio-based production facility.

Second Course
PR Newswire

Once Upon a Farm closes $52M Series D

Led by CAVU Venture Partners and existing investors S2G Ventures, Cambridge and Beechwood, the new investment will fuel innovation and category expansion.

Food Dive

FDA approves GMO Cattle for Food

By Megan Poinski

It will take a minimum of two years for the bioengineered cattle to be available for food, which gives us plenty of time to mount an aggressive opposition campaign.


Big Bold Health lands $4M from S2G Ventures

By Hank Schultz

Founded by Jeffrey Bland, PhD, the company has been fostering the development of certified organic Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat, a legacy crop that fell into obscurity as modern cultivars of wheat, maize and other foodstuffs came to the fore.

Third Course
PR Newswire

Teamsters Challenge Amy's Kitchen B Corp Certification in Light of Worker Abuses

Amy's Kitchen has paid more than $100,000 to settle serious federal health and safety violations from the Department of Labor's Office of Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), including $95,750 in penalties paid within five years of Amy's certification questionnaire, which the company failed to disclose.


Bobbie drinks up $50M to Expand Infant Formula Product Line

By Christine Hall

Laura Modi, co-founder and CEO of Bobbie, said she had expected $4 million in revenue for 2021 but closed the year with $18 million.

National Organic Coalition

Key Wins for Organic in Spending Legislation

In the just-passed $1.5 trillion spending package to fund federal government activities for the rest of fiscal year 2022, the National Organic Coalition scored important funding gains and increased enforcement efforts for soil health and pasture requirements.

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This Week's Quick Hits

Quick Hits

* Dr. Bronner’s is a presenting partner of the new film Coextinction, a documentary about the plight of the Southern Resident Orcas, of which less than 75 are alive today.

* Patagonia Provisions and Dogfish Head Craft Brewery have partnered to launch Kernza Pils, a German-style pilsner beer made with Kernza.

* Applications for the Nature’s Path Gardens for Good contest are open until March 25th, with 22 garden projects to be awarded $5,000 each.

* Tomorrow at SXSW, a superstar organic panel will be talking about soil health.

* Released today on Netflix, Bad Vegan explores the bizarre downfall of the ‘vegan queen’ Sarma Melngailis.

* Farmer Direct Organic is now the leading global supplier of Regenerative Organic Certified grains.

* Michael Lynch has been named the new CEO of Nutiva.

* The newly appointed Sakara Science Council.

* Honoring the founder of Odwalla and Califia Farms, The Greg Steltenpohl Pragmatic Visionary Award will grant $100,000 annually to food system changemakers.

* An organic cotton expert slams the paper-based ‘certification charade’ and calls for a new way forward that puts farmers at the head of the table.

* In sad news, Samuel Kaymen has passed away — founder of both Stonyfield and the Natural Organic Farmers Association (currently Northeast Organic Farming Association).

* In case you missed the last Organic Insider newsletter, Mandatory ESG Reporting Standards are Coming. This is huge!

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