An Ode to The Natural Food Pioneers

  • Chelsea Jones
An Ode to The Natural Food Pioneers

What does natural food mean and where did it start?

We’ve come a long way since spam and ketchup! When you go to the grocery store, there are aisles and aisles of salubrious and natural foods.  There are even entire sections of stores dedicated to natural food. From free range organic eggs to natural cookies and ice-cream, we are lucky to live in an age where natural and organic exists. This hasn’t always been the case.

The FDA defines natural food to mean that, “nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in that food” (FDA).

The concept of packaged or convenience food has not received the most positive or health promoting reputation, due to a plethora of processed foods and snacks filled with chemicals, sodium and sugar.  The words “natural foods” to some mean bowls of lettuce, plates of spinach and no dessert. We’re not gonna deny that we do love our veggies, but the natural food industry has and continues to produce creative and delicious ways to give yourself the nutrients you need in a delicious, easy way!  Here in the natural food industry, we recognize that the convenience of packaged, easy to prepare food is a wonderful thing that can be done through sustainable methods using simple ingredients that will nourish your body!

This notion of finding foods that are nutrient-dense but also convenient, has actually been around for a while.   Although the founding fathers were not snacking on Woodstock Organic trail mix, the idea of taking food from the earth, with minimal processing, and seeking out the most nutritionally dense foods have been around since the colonial area.

During the late 1930’s through the 1945’s in the midst of World War II, food was becoming scarce. Campaigns were circulating the media promoting food conservation and preservation, these were the first of its kind. After the war , the concept of “convenience foods” were becoming more popular around the United States. Manufactures had gotten the idea from the foods the soldiers were eating, packaged foods that they could quickly consume without mess or preparation when they were in combat.  Foods like Kraft Mac and Cheese, Spam and Ritz Crackers were becoming popular staples in the American diet due to their ever lasting shelf life and small amount of preparation time.

Around the 1950’s, organic farming began to take many families and farmers by storm. People grew fascinated with the idea of eliminating pesticides and producing a higher quality, safer fruits and vegetables.  In the early 1970’s, organic foods were starting to make their way into grocery stores. With people starting to pay attention and care more about what they put in their bodies, there became a demand for easily accessible food that was also healthy.  From then on, the natural foods industry started to grow rapidly. A wider diversity of foods were being introduced to the everyday American palette, and companies began producing foods that were nutrient-dense, allergen friendly, and good for the body as well as the environment!

So who started this sensation of natural foods?  Like any other newly introduced concept, it takes a village to help a simple idea blossom into a phenomenon. While there are so many admirable leaders who have played essential roles in assisting the natural food industry to become the empire it is today, there are a few individuals that speak to us here at RollinGreens in particular. And without them, RollinGreens would not exist today.

If you’ve ever walked through the dairy section of any grocery store, you’ve probably seen Horizon Organic Dairy products. Mark Retzloff, the founder of Horizon Organic Dairy, Aurora Organic Dairy and Co-Founder of Alfalfas Market, is the man responsible for those bright red milk cartons with the adorable jumping cow always smiling back at you. Growing up, Retzloff worked in retail at grocery stores like Rainbow Organic and the original Alfalfas Market, sparking his interest in the natural food industry at a young age.  Retzloff’s accomplishments speak for themselves, aside from founding many successful natural dairy companies, “in 1990 Mr. Retzloff was chairman of the Organic Food Alliance which was instrumental in passing the 1990 Organic Food Production Act in D.C.”(bencolorado).  He is also responsible for turning around companies that may face hardships or need to be rebranded.  His partner and Co-Founder of Alfalfas, Hass Hassan is also extremely active in the natural foods industry.  Hassan has served on the board for Whole Foods Market, Pangea Organics and Justin’s Nut Butter. Hassen’s accomplishments have not gone unrecognized, he has won several awards for his leadership in the natural food industry at such a young age. Needless to say, Retzloff and Hassan are both true trailblazers with initiatives that continue to dominate the  natural foods industry.

It is a given that exceptional leaders are produced from exceptional teachers.  Julianaa Satie is one of those teachers. Founder of the School of Natural Cookery, a culinary institute on a mission to bring cooking back to its natural roots, Julianaa Satie is dedicated to producing more great leaders in the natural food industry (even yours truly Chef Ko), teaching and promoting simplistic cooking methods that utilize whole ingredients, promote natural healing through food, and encouraging creativity through cultivating the most delicious, nutrient-dense meals. Satie was inspired by her love of dance, and being able to channel her creativity through choreography, as well as her role as a mother and grandmother to start an institution that values simple, wholesome, and delicious cooking methods, that will keep your body functioning to its highest ability.

Whether you’re on your lunch break that’s too short and need a fast nutritious meal that is also hot and delicious, or just want to peruse the aisles for free samples, Whole Foods Market is always your best bet.  With almost 500 stores in the United States, 9 stores in the United Kingdom and 12 in Canada, you or someone you know is probably on their way to Whole Foods right now. In 1980, founders John Mackey and Renee Lawson Hardy wanted to open a grocery store that valued Mother Earth’s creations as much as they did.  They met on a vegetarian housing co-op and bonded over their love and devotion to quality organic foods. They started SaferWay, a small natural grocery store that later turned into the first Whole Foods. It was an immediate success and began to expand to other parts of Texas and other southern states, and eventually nationwide.  While Amazon bought Whole Foods in 2018, Mackey continues to pursue his passion for animal rights and sustainable environmental practices when it comes to food production and consumption. Mackey and Hardy are not the only Whole Foods alumni making a difference in the natural food industry, former CEO of Whole Foods Walter Robb also continues to play a significant role in advocating for more environmentally friendly food production methods.  In August of 2018, Robb became a board member of Apeel sciences, a company that expands the shelf life of produce naturally through derived coating, preventing food waste while also saving grocery stores money!

So how do these delectable products end up on the shelves just an arm reach away?  The man behind the madness of logistical operations and production is Doug Greene, founder of New Hope Network.  New Hope Network creates solutions and innovates idea when it comes to the supply chain from manufacturer’s, ingredients suppliers, media branding, consulting as well as event planning.  New Hope Network connects like minded individuals in the natural food industry, and helps them expand their business as well as create partnerships and help companies deliver the most quality natural food to their consumers.  Greene is an avid believer that when you eat better, you’ll feel better which leads to a higher quality more productive life and who doesn’t want that? Greene has become a quintessential leader in the natural food industry, bringing people together and creating a community of individuals ardent about providing quality nourishing products for their customers in the most effective, strategic way possible!

There are SO many commendable pioneers in the natural foods industry, that we can go on and on about.  Here at RollinGreens we feel eternally fortunate to be a part of such a supportive, passion driven community of dedicated individuals that is the natural foods industry.  Being able to make people’s lives healthier, easier, prolonged and happier through the food they consume, is an indescribable feeling of pure bliss, and for that, we thank you- natural foods!

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