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Z E S T   I N   T H E   N E W S

Dateline: August 9, 2017 San Francisco CA

ZEST Launches Gourmet Paleo Cakes

in First 5 of 50 Northern California Whole Foods Markets


Dateline: June 28, 2017 1:25 Washington DC

Why Whole Foods' Small Suppliers

Think Amazon Will Be Good For Them


Many of the small companies that give Whole Foods its local-food image may look at Jeff Bezos' Amazon, which changed the way people shop, and see a hint of their own desire to shake things up in the food industry.

The last few months have not been easy ones for the small companies that supply Whole Foods with quinoa and kale. As big investors demanded a shake-up at the company, maybe even a takeover by a much bigger supermarket chain, Janey Hubschman felt that the fate of her own company, Epicurean Butter, was also at stake.

"The fact that their sales have not been great affects every single product that is in Whole Foods, and their reputation affects everything that is on the shelf," says the Colorado businesswoman, who has been selling to Whole Foods since 2005.

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Then, on June 16, the long-anticipated takeover announcement came, with Amazon as the winner, and many small food companies actually breathed a sigh of relief.

Despite Amazon's huge size, and its reputation for squeezing out small businesses in sectors such as bookstores, these food companies think the online behemoth's entry into their business could be a good thing.

For some, it's because Amazon is familiar. Robbie Stout of Ritual Chocolate in Utah uses Amazon to buy parts for his factory. Bebe Goodrich of Icebox Coffee in Alabama said Amazon is a tremendous part of her life as an entrepreneur and mom of two kids. And Hubschman says, "I have a box with that little smiley face on my door four times a week. I love Amazon."

"Whole Foods came in as an innovator and others changed to catch up, carrying natural and organic foods," said Sylvia Wyant, CEO of Zest Brands LLC, which makes cakes and cookies that meet the paleo diet. "I see Jeff Bezos and Amazon as innovators, and I see the grocery business needing innovation."

The problem is, Amazon-style innovation hasn't always been kind to small businesses or to the types of products Whole Foods peddles. Searches for "artisan" or " local" on Amazon Prime Pantry pull up only a couple dozen results, mostly packaged items like white cheddar popcorn or crackers.

In fact, little about Amazon is local, save for the boxes arriving at your door. Their mission is to "build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online." Whole Foods, on the other hand, built a regional purchasing model that gave stores considerable autonomy in finding local products. At least, that was the case until early 2016, when Whole Foods shifted all its nonperishable buying to its Austin, Texas, headquarters.

"I think Amazon's track record in other sectors indicates they are not deeply invested in creating a decentralized model," says Leah Douglas, a reporter and analyst with the Open Markets program at the New America think tank.

Amazon could help bring down prices at the stores known for taking your "whole paycheck," but that is more likely to benefit customers and to come at a cost for producers.

Despite all that, small suppliers persist in their hope, perhaps simply out of instinct. After all, they built their ideas and products from the ground up through optimism. Potentially, they say, Amazon will open new and better distribution channels, helping them sell products through an online platform with immediate name recognition. "The cost of getting products from manufacturing to a retailer the traditional way eats away at profit for businesses like Zest," Wyant says.

Indea Leo of Lillabee baking hopes that Amazon buying Whole Foods will be good for her business. "We think there is going to be a lot of exciting possibilities of bypassing the shelf altogether and reaching a wider customer base."

"It is hard as a small company to go from a concept to the shelf and then from the shelf to the cart," says Indea Leo, the founder of Lillabee, which makes allergen-free baking mixes in Colorado. Lillabee was discovered by a Whole Foods representative while selling at a farmers market and later received a product development loan from the company. "We think there is going to be a lot of exciting possibilities of bypassing the shelf altogether and reaching a wider customer base."

While suppliers remain optimistic, more information is still needed before the crystal ball of kombucha and asparagus water clears. The deal will be subject to regulatory approval before it is finalized, and neither Amazon nor Whole Foods has said what will change once the two companies are married.

Nicholson, the third-generation apple grower, wonders what this means for the future of groceries. His family recently planted new trees to meet growing demand.

"How might we be selling things when that fruit comes available in 10 years?" he says. "I don't know."


Also see:

Dateline: June 20, 2017Phoenix Arizona

Almonds in the Rockies: Innovation in Food


Zest Brands manufactures gourmet-quality delectables featuring the virtues of protein-rich almond flour in small batches inside its artisanal bakery in Boulder. Zest super premium Paleo Perfect™ cakes and cookies are made with all natural, non-GMO, preservative-free ingredients and contain approximately 80 percent almonds by volume. That means that 80 percent of the products’ low sugar-content 

(4 grams on average) comes from the almonds themselves—in the form of fructose—or fruit sugar. All Zest products—three varieties of cookies and three varieties of cakes—are high in protein, high fiber, low carb, low glycemic and low sugar, and free from gluten, wheat, dairy, soy, corn, grain and GMOs. Co-founders Sylvia Wyant and Ken Hess are passionate about creating products for a healthy, low-glycemic, gluten-free lifestyle. Zest products are sold in local Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage and Whole Foods Markets, as well as online. The company’s products also can be found in restaurants, cafes and coffee shops in over 20 states. Editor’s note: The Lemon Almond cake was the BOMB.


Photo credit: Julia Vandenoever Photography for the Almond Board of California

Dateline: June 9, 2017 Troy Michigan

ZEST Brands Paleo Perfect Vanilla Hazelnut Coffee Cake


Product Snapshot: A slice of ZEST Vanilla Hazelnut Coffee Cake is 2.9 ounces (whole cakes are 14 oz). Imagine a rich, moist, textural almond flour cake flavored with fragrant vanilla and hazelnuts — madly reminiscent of an Italian Frangelico torte. Joining ZEST’s Chocolate Coconut and Lemon Almond Cakes, this pastry features organic vanilla and buttery hazelnuts baked with 80 percent California Almonds.

As are all ZEST’s gourmet baked goods, the Vanilla Hazelnut Coffee Cake is Paleo Perfect and therefore Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Corn Free, Soy Free, Grain Free and, most importantly, Guilt Free — with only 6 grams of naturally occurring fructose per 2.5 ounce slice.

Non-GMO ingredients (only 10) include almonds, organic agave, virgin unrefined organic coconut oil, cage-free eggs, hazelnuts, organic vanilla extract, organic hazelnut extract, organic coconut, baking soda and sea salt.

Without any preservatives added, ZEST cakes enjoy a 16-week (4 months) Best By dating profile and are baked to order each week and shipped ambient to Whole Foods markets and Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage stores in over 25 states.

Rich, buttery, and sweet by nature, ZEST almond cakes are very high in protein (with 8 to 10 grams per 2.5oz slice) and also high in fiber, low in carbs, nutrient dense, antioxidant rich, with heart-healthy fats from the almonds and coconut.

The cake retails for $4.99 per slice, and $19.99 per 14 oz. cake (Natural Grocers pricing). At Whole Foods Markets in the Rocky Mountain region, the (whole) cake sells for $21.99. The Northern California region, which includes over 50 stores, will be selling ZEST Cakes for $28.00, with slices offered at $7.00.


Dateline: May 10, 2017 Boulder Colorado

Almond Board of California (ABC) travels to Boulder to meet with ZEST leadership.

Accompanied by an entourage of top journalists from major food and restaurant industry publications flown in from around the country ABC executives and the Board's public relations firm were presented with a sampling of ZEST’s super premium gourmet cakes and cookies made with 80% California almonds.

In attendance were media representatives from national periodicals and online magazines including Nation's Restaurant News, Flavor & The Menu, PLATE, Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery, Food Technology, Natural Products Insider, Prepared Food and Restaurant Business.

The Almond Board of California engages in production, nutrition and market research, advertising and promotion in domestic and international markets, quality control and statistical analysis and dissemination. As a Federal Marketing Order, it is important to note that the Board is not involved with, and is expressly prohibited from, setting field or market prices.

The consortium's executive Board is composed of 10 members. Each year, the more than 6,000 almond growers and 104 almond handlers elect the five growers and five handlers in an annual election process held throughout the state. The Board is responsible for establishing policy, recommending budgets and programs to the Secretary of Agriculture for approval, and reviewing program results and effectiveness. The Almond Board is funded by an annual assessment on the marketable kernel weight of almonds. This year’s budget is reported to hover around $60,000,000.

Dateline: February 1, 2015 Austin Texas

Ask Your Doctor About Zest

Top Functional Medicine Dr. Amy Myers has a New Book!!!

Amy is the Author of The New York Times Bestselling book published February 2015

The Autoimmune Solution: Prevent and Reverse the Full Spectrum of Inflammatory Systems and Diseases

In a letter to Zest Brands president Sylvia Wyant she wrote: “I work with people across the country with multiple food sensitivities. When I discovered Zests' foods I felt like I had hit the jackpot. Whether you follow a gluten free, dairy free, Paleo or vegan diet, Zest foods are the perfect food. They are nutritious, absolutely delicious, and I recommend them to my patients. In fact, I hand-carried 2 cakes home from Denver to Austin Texas for our office party.” — Amy Myers, MD / Founder & Medical Director / Austin UltraHealth

Dateline: Boulder Colorado

Zest Awarded Whole Foods Local Producer Loan

Zest is a recent recipient of an LPLP loan (Local Producer Loan Program) offered by Whole Foods Markets nationwide — further strengthening the bakery’s partnership and rapport with this global leader in the natural foods grocery space. Zest has been a preferred wholesale manufacturer with Whole Foods for over 45 months! almost four years now.

Thanks Whole Foods!

Dateline: November 11, 2013 Boulder Colorado

Should there be a Paleo certification label?


Last weekend I discovered the merits of Paleo eating. To be honest, it was only a matter of time before I drank the saber-toothed Kool-Aid. Paleo is rapidly becoming the lifestyle of choice for many who seek improved energy, fitness and health, as evidenced by the new crop of Paleo-angled media, such as Paleo Magazine and a podcast titled “Latest in Paleo.”

Perhaps my decision was spurred by a weekend camping in the Rockies, or that my bellwether of a friend preached Paleo values for the duration of a daylong hike (his winning persuasion: “Join your Paleolithic brethren, Jenna.”), but I finally internalized the eating plan that lauds ultra-unprocessed foods: no to sugar, grains and dairy; yes to vegetables, nuts and seeds and fruits. And obviously, yes to meat. My housemates are on board too, which explains the sudden appearance of bison steaks and knobby Paleo muffins in my kitchen.

By no means do I plan to follow Paleo strictly. If my proclivity for cheese strikes, I’ll certainly indulge. Plus, I’m vegetarian, which immediately banishes me from the Stone Age set who install meat freezers in their apartments. But “Paleo lites” are growing privy to the benefits of the lifestyle.

Natural products companies are jumping on the bandwagon too, as they’re starting to market products specifically to primal shoppers. For example, Boulder-based Zest Brands, makers of almond flour cookies and cakes, boldly proclaims their products fit the Paleo lifestyle with a woolly mammoth logo reading “Paleo Perfect.” Likewise, Paleo Bread by Julian Bakery, made predominantly with coconut flour, psyllium seed powder, and apple cider vinegar, would send a true caveman scampering out of his, um, cave.

New companies are also cropping up at tradeshows—many of which showcase Paleo-friendly ingredients such as Epic Bar, The New Primal, Caveman Cookies, and a recent favorite, Primal Pit Paste (a.k.a. natural deodorant).

Can you certify a caveman?

As expected in a world of special-diet neologisms (flexitarian, pescatarian), certification labels have emerged to bolster (capitalize on?) the Paleo trend. For instance, Paleo Friendly: Developed by The Paleo Foundation, the label aims to assure Paleo followers that a product adheres to diet specifications (“Grain-free, legume-free, dairy-free, artificial coloring, artificial preservatives, artificial sweeteners and artificial flavor enhancers-free,” according their website). It’s certainly a tool to bridge the gap between a 10,000-year-old hunter-gatherer and a time-strapped modern cubicle jockey.

But those who follow a clean-eating diet may take offense from Paleo labels on packaged foods. “By eating foods mass-manufactured and wrapped in plastic, I can't help but feel that I’m deviating from the essence of the lifestyle—to eat whole, simple foods that our ancient ancestors would have eaten,” explains my Paleo-enthused housemate. “It’s hard to ignore the obvious marketing attempts with such products and start wondering if these are really healthy choices for our bodies, or just for someone else's wallet.”

Indeed, on one level, certification labels don’t address shopper intelligence. If I really wanted to follow a strict Paleo diet, I could buy only unpackaged foods: lettuce, eggs, red peppers, beef, etc; or scrutinize ingredient labels—admittedly an exhaustive task, given the grain- and dairy-saturated grocery aisles.

But there are some great Paleo products on the market that are truly healthy, delicious, and difficult or time-consuming to make in a home kitchen. Plus, as with gluten-free contamination issues, wouldn’t it be great to instantly know if a product was Paleo approved?


Dateline: November 4, 2013 Boulder Colorado

Zest to use loan to develop cracker line


BOULDER - Dessert maker Zest Brands LLC soon may start making almond-flour crackers to be sold exclusively at Whole Foods stores, said co-founder Ken Hess.

Boulder-based Zest in October received a low-interest Local Food Producer loan of up to $100,000 from Whole Foods Market Inc. (Nasdaq: WFM) based in Austin, Texas. Hess declined to give the specific amount of the loan Whole Foods made to privately held Zest. A Whole Foods spokeswoman referred loan questions to Hess.

Zest plans to start making and selling four flavors of almond-flour crackers, including Herbes de Provence, caraway, cinnamon sugar and lemon zest, Hess said. Zest's almond-flour cakes and cookies are sold at 60 stores in 15 states, including several Whole Foods and Vitamin Cottage stores, and similar natural grocers such as Boulder-based Lucky's and Alfalfa's markets, Hess said.

"Everything is happening at once," Hess said. "It's like we're racing to the holidays now."

The company's best seller is a seven-inch lemon almond cake, Hess said, which sells for $29.99 on the company website, Zest cookies sell for $2.99 on the website.

Sylvia Wyant is the company's other co-founder.

Past Whole Foods loan recipients include Justin's in Boulder, a nut butter and candy-bar maker that recently merged with a private equity firm based in California in a $47 million transaction. The loans must be paid back. Whole Foods representatives loan up to $10 million per year to businesses around the nation through the program, according to the company website.

Zest desserts are gluten-free, according to the company website. Gluten-free food sales continue to grow as health-conscious customers look for alternatives to wheat-based products.

Copyright © 2013 Boulder County Business Report by Biz West Media.

Dateline: October 23, 2013 Boulder Colorado

Navigating the 'sugar holidays' that run now through New Year's: Surviving the season of sweet!


It might be blasphemy to say so in Boulder, but we're not against a little sugar now and then.

The problem comes when the sugar rush lasts for months, as it can if temptations are gorgeously abundant and willpower is a pitiful, wispy fancy that dissolves into the thin Colorado air when a plate of chocolate truffles beckons. Here are some strategies for bringing that sugar high down to earth.

Protein, protein, protein

One thing about eating too much sugar — it's easy to get into a cycle of wanting more. Eat sugar, and your body releases insulin quickly to stabilize you. The spike in insulin drops your blood sugar level quickly, making you want — you guessed it — more sugar. (If you doubt the power of the sweet stuff, Google the recent study that found that rats were as attracted to Oreo cookies as they were morphine and cocaine.)

The best way to keep your brain from lighting up like a Christmas tree when you eat sugar is to eat protein and healthy fat. That leads to more stable blood sugar and takes longer to digest, says Esther Cohen, a nutritionist and founder of the Seven Bowls School of Nutrition in Longmont. She adds that when you have overindulged in sugar and unrefined carbs, it's crucial to immediately return to nourishing food. “Your breakfast after Thanksgiving — it's great to have eggs or believe it or not some kind of chicken sausage. Don't have toast. Don't have muffins. Have a nice frittata with sauteed vegetables,” she says. “There's no deprivation happening.”

That idea of healthy food, including treats, with no sense of deprivation is the idea behind Zest cakes and cookies. The Boulder company makes the rich treats with buttery almond flour as the base with a very small amount of agave to sweeten them, along with the natural sweetness of the almonds. Each cookie, for example, has only 4 grams of sugar (the equivalent of a teaspoon) or less and 8 grams of protein with its roughly 300 calories, along with 5 grams of fiber.

Company co-founder Ken Hess points out that the sugar, protein and fiber makes the cookies more nutritious than most energy bars. Likewise with the company's cakes. “Diabetics buy our 9-inch cakes every week and have a slice for breakfast every day,” he says. “Crossfit (enthusiasts) call our cake the paleo cake.”

The company got its official start in 2011, but its core idea came a couple of years earlier when Sylvia Wyant, a former professor of psychology at Regis University, discovered she could not eat gluten. When she quit eating gluten, she found that many gluten-free flours were not particularly healthful. “I couldn't take the sugar load ... 99 percent were so packed with sugar or starches that turned to sugar,” she says. “So I started baking with almond flour.”

As she was starting to take her products around to coffee shops, she teamed up with Hess, who had a specialty in marketing and brand management. Today, Zest products, which are manufactured in a facility on North Broadway, are in 50 Whole Foods stores in 12 states.

Zest currently makes 7- and 9-inch cakes in chocolate-coconut and lemon flavors. The cakes have eggs, but the cookies, which include lemon coconut, shortbread sandies, almond cherry and chocolate ginger, are vegan.

Not on the shelves yet, but in development are savory crackers, also made with almond flour, one flavored with Herbes de Provence and one with caraway.

This month, the company received a low-interest loan from Whole Foods under its Local Producer Loan Program. Catherine Trujillo, regional bakery coordinator for Whole Foods' Rocky Mountain region, says the purpose of the loans is to help local artisans and farmers flourish. Trujillo says Whole Foods offers both indulgent sweets and what she calls alternative sweets, which is the category Zest fits in based on the fact that it's gluten free, sugar free and dairy free. Trujillo says Mintel data show that gluten-free foods have increased sales by 44 percent from 2011 to 2013. However, she says Zest and some other alternative sweets are appropriate for a place on the holiday table. “They taste just as delicious as if you were adding other ingredients,” she says, adding that portion control is a feature that many people appreciate.

Zest offers both 7-inch and 9-inch cakes, but also, at the suggestion of Whole Foods, sells its cakes in individually packaged slices.

That can allow the indulger to splurge one day and come back to earth and sugar stability by having a Zest treat the next. For those who eschew sugar altogether, the products allow them to eat and serve what you might call unsweet sweets.

“The best thing to wean yourself off of sugar is by eating healthy protein,” Zest Co-founder Wyant says. “If you really cut back, you won't have the ups and downs.”

See what the New York Times, Harvard University, Purdue University,The New England Journal of Medicine and NBC Nightly News have to say about Almonds in your daily diet.