Sustainable Steps, Sesame Seeds, & the Future of Food Labeling: CPG News, Week of Nov 30-Dec 4

by Veronica Drake

7 Minutes



Funding & Acquisitions

Kind Snacks will acquire Nature’s Bakery, the companies announced this week. The terms were not disclosed, but the deal was valued at around $400 million by the New York Times. The acquisition comes shortly after Mars Inc. acquired Kind North America, and further pushes the parent company into the health and wellness category.

ShipMonk received a $290 million growth equity investment from Summit Partners, positioning the shipping company to ramp up its growth and expand its reach.

Unilever has closed a deal with SmartyPants Vitamins to purchase the gummy supplement company for an undisclosed amount.

Keto ice cream brand Killer Creamery closed its seed funding round that will go towards enhancing product offerings and expanding distribution channels in 2021.


New Products & Partnerships

Health and wellness brand Le-Vel is releasing Thrive Thirst, a line of water enhancers designed to quench thirst and combat the effects of dehydration.

Kohl’s and Sephora have announced a long term partnership, with plans to bring Sephora retail to over 200 locations across the country by next year. 

Supermarket chain Meijer has partnered with Instacart to offer same-day delivery of grocery items from nearly all of its locations. This is the chain’s third major delivery partnership, after Shipt and DoorDash, and adds to Instacart’s list of over 500 retailers it’s partnered with, a lineup that has grown rapidly since the start of the pandemic and the accompanying wave of online shopping.

World-famous tennis player Venus Williams has created vegan protein brand Happy Viking in partnership with Dyla Brands. The first products are a line of plant-based protein shakes, with Williams crediting her own journey with health and nutrition as a motivator to make it simple for consumers to do the same. The shakes are currently available online and are set to launch in Kroger next spring.


Sustainability Is in Sight

Nestlé has announced in a statement that it will invest $3.6 billion over the next five years to help hit its goals of cutting emissions in half by 2030 and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. The company plans to make the switch over to 100% renewable energy at its sites by 2025, and is taking other steps to improve their sustainability by working with their farmers to implement regenerative agriculture practices and expanding product offerings to include more plant-based options. "I think it's about staying relevant to the consumer, and we've seen in more and more categories that consumers are willing to pay a premium for products that have a favorable environmental footprint," said Nestlé CEO Mark Schneider. "Nonetheless, to get it off the ground, some initial significant investments are needed."

Meanwhile, Nestlé is not alone in its commitment to be more environmentally-friendly. Colgate-Palmolive is locking in on sustainable packaging goals, already debuting Colgate Keep, a reusable aluminum toothbrush handle that can have its head replaced, and is toying with variations of shipping a product in its own package, avoiding the extra waste of shipping containers and packaging fillers. Colgate is particularly interested in the development of monomaterials, materials that can easily fit into a recyclable stream; they’ve already developed a monomaterial toothpaste tube, eliminating the strip of aluminum that is present in many packaging iterations. Diageo, maker of alcoholic beverage brands like Smirnoff and Guinness, will also make strides to reach net-zero carbon emissions in its own facilities and have 100% recycled plastic packaging by 2030 and reduce supply chain emissions by 50%. Sustainability has become an important issue for many consumers and is something they’re willing to pay for, consumer studies have found. Companies are expected to make an effort to find ways to be more eco friendly and keep up with the strides that have been made to help support missions for recyclable packaging and decreased carbon emissions. 


Labeling Woes

Roughly a month after an Oklahoma judge ruled that Upton’s Naturals packaging could be misleading to consumers because of its use of meat terminology to describe plant-based products, the brand has taken its case to the Court of Appeals, but to no avail. The judge declined to suspend a law that requires packaging displays plant-based claims in the same size font as the product name, a rule that has been challenged by plant-based brands that don’t believe the restriction is fair. The ruling ends a streak of successful challenges that have been brought against similar laws in states like Louisiana and Arkansas, although the case is far from over. Upton’s Naturals has appealed the decision and will continue to fight for label laws that they don’t feel are as restrictive to plant-based brands and protective of the meat industry. It could take some convincing to judges that subtler labeling would not be confusing to consumers, with a survey from last year showing that under one-third of consumers equated plant-based and vegan as being synonymous. 

Also in the world of labeling, the FDA and Congress are pushing to ensure that products containing sesame are appropriately labeled as allergens, potentially making sesame the ninth major ingredient to require an allergen warning on packaging. The FASTER Act would also allow the FDA to recognize other allergens based on scientific criteria and support research to develop allergy treatments. Currently over 1.6 million Americans have a sesame allergy, but labeling that notes sesame as an ingredient is not required, making it difficult to determine which foods are safe to eat. Representative Doris Matsui of California says, “ The FASTER Act is the solution — legislation that would not only update labeling laws to include sesame, but also lay the groundwork to help understand, treat, and one day prevent food allergies.”


Innovation for Expiration

Innoscentia and Ynvisible Interactive are partnering to develop real-time expiration labels. The digital labels would be able to monitor food and ensure freshness, allowing for a more customized approach to determining an expiration date that could prevent food from being thrown away when it’s still good. Labeling date confusion accounts for roughly 20% of food waste according to the FDA, and language like “sell by” and “best by” can make the date the food can no longer be eaten unclear to consumers. This confusion equates to $161 billion in lost food each year, with products being thrown away while they’re still good because of uncertainty around whether it’s still edible. Ynvincible has identified low cost, format flexibility, and low power consumption as three potential benefits to the digital labels it’s working to produce, and will allow brands to include them in their packaging with relative ease. Other versions of this idea are also in development, with Insignia Technologies working on a color-changing label that can make food freshness easily identifiable and reduce confusion, and multiple companies working on a protective coating for produce to lengthen its shelf life.  

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