TMC client Navitas Naturals featured in the Marin Independent Journal

Navitas Naturals was recently featured in the Marin Independent Journal highlighting the pursuit of the Navitas’s “food is medicine” trend with booming productions since the company’s inception in 2004.

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Novato natural foods movement bears fruit
by Janis Mara Marin Independent Journal

A HEALTHY TREND launched years ago by a group of Novato moms is literally bearing fruit not to mention vegetables whole grains and power snacks as nutrition-oriented businesses grow in the town.

Navitas Naturals CEO Zach Adelman holds one of his products at company headquarters in Novato Calif. on Wednesday Jan. 22 2014. (Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal)

The mothers group succeeded in getting a Whole Foods market built downtown as well as a Trader Joe’s on Redwood Boulevard about four years ago. Now Navitas Naturals located in Novato since 2004 is expanding and Cooper’s offering locally sourced foodstuffs is set to open Saturday Jan. 25.

“This area because it is agriculturally based has a natural link to natural foods and healthy lifestyles” said Robert Eyler head of the Marin Economic Forum. “It’s not a shocker that this business (Navitas) has grown in Novato. As the Marin food market evolves and draws in more farmers the linkages between producing materials that could be marketed as natural or organic will develop.”

The natural food business is healthy in more ways than one. Sales for all products in the $99 billion natural products industry increased 10 percent in 2012 according to the Natural Foods Merchandiser a trade publication.

Zach Adelman founder of Navitas has immediate personal experience with such numbers. His superfoods company jumped from 42 employees in 2012 to 75 in 2013 expanded its production facilities and increased its revenue by $9 million to $35 million in 2013 growing along with the natural sector.

“In most cultures around the world food is medicine and we want to establish that thinking here in North America” Adelman said.

“We don’t use traditional industrial food processing techniques” he said. “We offer pure whole foods that are not compromised by high heat additives fillers or preservatives.”

The company imports foods including maca a root vegetable from Peru that looks like a radish and chia a plant in the mint family known for having omega-3 fatty acids and processes them into powder to be used in cooking and shakes. Navitas also sells Power Snacks nut-studded treats that look like energy bars cut into cubes.

The CEO decided to move to the Bay Area from Los Angeles when his wife Meghan got pregnant in 2003. “I didn’t want to raise my kids in L.A.” Adelman said. “Besides we had always wanted to live here.”

When they landed in Novato in 2004 Meghan joined the mothers group that was already making waves with its massive letter-writing campaign calling for a Whole Foods market in Novato. She became friends with members of the group including Alice Dow though she didn’t get involved in the campaign.

Now Navitas products are prominently featured in the Novato Whole Foods Market as well as at stores around the country and Canada.

The Adelmans moved from Novato to San Anselmo with their two young sons in 2013 but the business remains committed to the city and to Marin they said.

“We donate money to the Montessori school in Terra Linda where our youngest son is a student” the CEO said. “We also give to the Food Bank.”

Like the Adelmans Dennis Cooper proprietor of the soon-to-open Cooper’s Public Market has strong ties to Novato. He was born and brought up in the city. After graduating from high school he left for a time but returned in 2008.

“Whole Foods was just being built when I got here” Cooper said.

He got the idea to open a locally sourced market because “when I moved to Novato I thought it would be easier to have access to all the local stuff. It was easier but there still wasn’t a place where you could go where you knew everything was local” Cooper said.

The store located in downtown’s Town and Country Center on Grant Avenue between Fourth and Fifth streets will host specialty tastings guest speakers and authors he said.

The store will feature produce herbs and salts from Allstar Organics in Nicasio Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese rabbit and pastured pork from Devil’s Gulch Ranch in Nicasio and all-natural grass-fed beef and lamb from Stemple Creek Ranch in Tomales among other offerings.

“They have agreements worked out with the farmers to provide them with a steady flow of product to sell” said Chris Stewart Novato’s economic development manager.

“The trend they (Cooper’s and Navitas) are picking up on and Whole Foods is the biggest chain to pick up on this is bringing in less-processed foods” Stewart said. “People want to get away from preservatives. High-end restaurants like the French Laundry have their own gardens now.

“This is a trend people are willing to spend money on. We are willing to pay more to get away from preservatives. When a product has a shelf life of a year or more” Stewart said “you know it’s not fresh and it usually doesn’t taste fresh either.”

“We wanted healthier choices” said Dow one of the ringleaders who got Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s to come to Novato. “It took us over three years. We had to gather signatures do letter-writing.”

At the time then-councilwoman Carole Dillon-Knutson told the Independent Journal “Only 11 people came down to talk against the (Whole Foods) project and there were hundreds — upwards of 800 or 900 — who either spoke or wrote in favor of it.”

“We lived and breathed this” Dow said. “We all had kids under 5 years old but this was our passion.”

Everyone in our neighborhood was driving either to San Rafael or Petaluma to go to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods” Dow said. “We said we wanted to keep our money in Novato.

“We never gave up and it was exciting when we won.”

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