J Douglas Hines, chairman and general partner of Atlantic Natural Foods, talks about his company's latest deal that will bring Nutmeat and Nutolene from Australia to the US—familiar cans already to many Adventists that he hopes to introduce to many more beyond the Adventist community.
Question: Atlantic Natural Foods has just announced that this summer it will be bringing two products from Life Health Foods in Australia to the U.S. market. What are those two traditional Adventist foods? Are they the same as the original products?
Answer: Those two products are Nutolene and Nutmeat. They are the same traditional products that the Adventist community in Australia has been consuming for over 100 years, and we’re excited to bring them to the US.
I understand that these products, which were owned by Sanitarium Health & Wellbeing, were only recently sold to Life Health Foods Australia, a new company. Why did Sanitarium spin off its Vegie Delights brand?
Life Health Foods and Sanitarium Health & Wellbeing are both Adventist companies seeing tremendous growth. As the church looked at how to best manage that growth moving forward, it made sense to bring the Vegie Delights brand under the care of Life Health Foods which focuses on the plant protein space.
Since the change, the brand has undergone an incredible transformation that continues to propel its growth.
How will these products from Australia complement the brands you already sell?
The Australian products are a great fit because those companies share our core mission to provide quality plant-based products that are renewable and, above all, healthy. At the same time, the individual products we are bringing over are uniquely different and have a long history in the Adventist community, giving our customers even more great options.
Do you plan to stock more of Life Health Foods' products as well?
Absolutely. Nutolene and Nutmeat are the first two of an initial four-product introduction. The remaining items will be announced and rolled out in the U.S. over the next 12 months.
Those products are top secret, but I will say that Life Health Foods has a complete list of frozen entrees that could be quite exciting in the future.
Is it really cost-effective to ship the products over, rather than manufacture them here in the U.S.?
In a global market, we find that products need to be created and distributed for a geographically diverse audience. For example, Loma Linda is sold as far away as South Korea, Singapore, and England. Since these particular products are so unique, especially for the Adventist community, we find its most efficient to maintain current manufacturing processes and ship products wherever there is demand.
How are things going for Atlantic Natural Foods and the Loma Linda and Worthington brand canned food? Is it selling as well as you hoped? Are non-Adventists buying it in significant numbers? Where are the major sales happening?
We have been thrilled at the response to the brands so far. In addition to our core group of Adventist consumers, we are expanding our reach to the non-Adventist market and today have over 7,000 points of distribution. That number is growing rapidly as individuals outside of the Adventist community continue to find the secret of the lifestyle and commitment of the Seventh-day Adventist to a long and healthy life.
So while we have been able to maintain and grow our core market in the ABC stores and through traditional Adventist distribution, we are also reaching out through other channels, including e-commerce, natural stores, and traditional retail.
How does your distribution work?
The Adventist community has been and will continue to be a primary focus for us, so the 100% Adventist owned and operated AFDA (Adventist Food Distributors Association), which distributes to the ABC stores and campmeetings, serves as the major avenue of distribution. We also have healthy export channels to ensure we can reach the community globally.
What is your major marketing strategy for the Loma Linda and Worthington brands?
These are iconic brands within the Adventist community, and we want to continue to build on that reputation while showing the rest of the world how a commitment to health and wellness can improve their well-being.
In particular, we’re very proud of our “Labels Make Cents” program that gives money directly back to local Adventist churches, schools, and universities. Customers can simply return UPC codes off our Loma Linda, Worthington, and Caroline’s shelf stable products and turn those in to their church or school. For every label, that church or school will receive 25 cents in support of its specific programs. We also have a number of promotional programs throughout the year to the general market with special offerings during campmeeting season.
Does canned food sell as well as the products you sell in other forms, like frozen?
We have devoted a great deal of research to this topic to help ensure that we are meeting the demands of our consumers. From that research, we have found that the greatest opportunity for today, and especially as we look into tomorrow, is in shelf stable products. Portability and storage constraints limit frozen food purchases and in certain areas around the world refrigeration is limited. So we see shelf-stable as the real future and will be rolling out additional products moving forward to meet the demand of the next generation of healthy consumers.
What is Atlantic Natural Foods' best-selling product?
Of course, no home is complete without Big Franks.
Are there Adventists who work for Atlantic Natural Foods?
Yes, two individuals in particular who come from the core environment of the Seventh-day Adventist community have been invaluable contributors to our leadership group. Gary Shockley from Village Market in Chattanooga heads our sales into the community, and Charles Smart recently joined us after working with Cedar Lakes where he was the General Manager in Michigan. In that position, he worked closely with Elder Pizzaro who is one of the true pioneers within the Adventist Food Community.
Looking at the wider organization, it is important to us that we adopt an Adventist commitment and retain those principals in our business and life. The church has had a truly incredible influence on our company because of those principles.
What other projects do you have in the pipeline?
In the immediate future, we will be introducing a full line of new products at the world’s largest natural, organic, and healthy products event: Natural Products Expo, in Anaheim, California. Those products will be under the Loma Linda “blue” label of clean, healthy foods and meal solutions. In addition, we are unveiling a new line of gluten-free, vegan-based baking items under our Neat brand, which will be available for the fall season.
As we look farther into the future, we are excited about the prospect of a long-term program with the leading health and nutrition universities in southern California. Through the program, the community will have direct input in creating Adventist-focused foods with the commitment of bringing them to a new level of health and wellness for the next generation of consumers.
Read the Spectrum article about Kellogg selling its Worthington and Loma Linda canned products line to Atlantic Natural Foods here.
Read about Heritage Health Food buying the frozen food lines from Kellogg here.
Read an interview with long-time Worthington boss Allan Buller here.
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