Sunday, December 6, 2009

Happy Anniversary, Jody!

December 5th is the one year anniversary of Jody going to the hospital.

It's been a long year...a couple months in the hospital, major surgery, a life changing illness...but the good news - the really good news - is that Jody came out the other side.

She went to a friend's Christmas party today and took a picture before she went. Her mom said she looked like a teenager :).

Jody - keep up the good hard work on your recovery.
Jody, well and looking like a teenager again!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

recipe from the National Organic Food Examiner

Natalie from the National Organic Food Examiner sent along a recipe she published using our Natural Value Organic Dijon Mustard. You can see the original recipe here:

Thanks to Natalie Rotunda for sending this along...

Orange Marmalade Glazed Cornish Hens

5 Cornish game hens trussed, dried and seasoned with salt and pepper
½ cup orange marmalade
1 ½ teaspoons Natural Value Organic Dijon mustard
1 ½ teaspoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey (local honey is best!)

Truss hens, place on sheet pan with rack, season with salt and pepper.
In bowl mix remaining ingredients, brush glaze generously on hens and place in 350 degree oven.

Bake hens, glazing occasionally during the process until birds are done. (45-60 minutes). Internal temperature should be 165 degrees.

Allow to rest, remove string, cut in half, line in pan, pour remaining glaze over hens and serve.

Kenny Wagoner, CEC, CCA, is executive chef at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) in Tulsa. CTCA provides a comprehensive, patient-centered treatment model that fully integrates traditional, state-of-the-art medical treatments with scientifically supported complementary therapies such as nutrition, naturopathic medicine, psychological counseling, physical therapy and spiritual support to meet the special, whole-person needs of patients with advanced and complex cancer.

In St. Cloud, MN, pick up Natural Value's Organic Dijon Mustard at the Good Earth Food Coop, 2010 8th Street North. Non-members are always welcome to shop at the Coop.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I have updated all of my posts by adding categories for each one...cats...pumpkin, travel, etc.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pallets, promotional gifts, Tchochkes, desk toys

Like most people, I have "stuff" on my desk.

In my early days as a magazine editor, I had one of those signs that said, "a clean, uncluttered desk is the sign of a sick mind."

Actually, these days, between the phone, laptop, paper clip holder, wide screen monitor and lamp, there isn't much room on my desk for "stuff."

But I love my growing collection of post it notes or sticky notes, which are attached to a wooden pallet.

post it notes on pallets; love it!

I started out with a 3 1/2" square pallet of notes from PalletPallet Inc.

Then the ULine salesman came one day and brought me a gift - a 2 1/4" mini pallet of ULine sticky notes.

But it was at the grocery show in Chicago that I hit pay dirt!

The folks from IFCO - a pallet company - were giving away the 3 1/2" pallets of notes. I asked if I could have one for my burgeoning collection, and they said yes.

But at the IGPS booth - Intelligent Global Pooling Systems - they had the cubes of sticky notes, but not on a wooden pallet....they had them affixed to a prototype of their Supply Chain Solution special pallet that has the new tracking technology!

Their website is

Do I sound like a geek?

Actually, since I started in the grocery business in the 60s, I have always been fascinated with pallets...go figure.

The Yiddish word Tchotchkes may describe this collection of desk toys...that's ok. I like 'em.

A Chicken in Every Pot...

and a blanket for every cat.

OK, so that's not the original quotation...but...the cats can be territorial at times. Natterz really liked the blanket on the sofabed...but Jake decided he wanted to sleep on Natterz's blanket. Turf war! So Jody solved the problem by putting another blanket on the now Natterz has her blanket and Jake has his...and Sunshine is very happy sleeping on the blanket on the coffee table.

Natterz and Jake and Suneshine
Natterz with her blanket on the sofabed
Jake also wants his blanket on the sofabed
Sunshine prefers her blanket on the coffee table

Friday, November 20, 2009

Beki's Pumpkin Pie Recipe

While Beki and I were looking online to find her Pumpkin Pie recipe, we came across a blog post about it...

The link for it is:

Friday, October 23, 2009
Pumpkin Pie

On the way home from the Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival, we picked up some pumpkin pie making supplies from a local community market called New Leaf. They turned out perfect and Boo and Little Sister had a great time putting the filling together.

Beki's Pumpkin Pie from Natural Value Canned Pumpkin

Preheat oven 425 degrees.
Beat 2 Eggs, then stir in:
15 oz canned pumpkin
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1 can evaporated milk

Pour into pie shell. (We used Maple Lane Bakery Unbleached Pie Crust)
Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees.
Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center of the pie comes out clean.
Beki's Pumpkin Pie

Got left over filling? Pour it into an oiled pie pan and bake it along with your pie. We doubled this recipe and ended up with two whole pies and one crustless pie -- enough to last us exactly 3 days.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Turkey Noodle Soup

I make the best turkey noodle soup!

Take the turkey, put it in the oven…the secret is putting an inch or two of water in the pan…so the turkey steams instead of overcooks…just under 3 hours usually for about a 12 pounder…then put all of the bones into a pot, cover with water, add a cut up onion, a stalk of celery, 4-5 cut up carrots, salt, 3-5 whole peppercorns and a bay leaf – hopefully, one that hasn’t been sitting in a spice jar in the cupboard for a decade…then simmer for 8-10 hours…refrigerate overnight….then skim off the fat.

Then to make the soup,,,cut up another 10-12 carrots and put them in the broth…simmer for an hour or until the carrots get soft…the carrots add sweetness.

In a separate pot, cook a package of NV Organic Egg Noodles according to package directions – i think about 8 minutes (closer to the low end of the cooking range as they will cook a little more when you add them to the broth)…then drain. Don’t cook the noodles in the broth – the broth gets gummy that way. Add the noodles and leftover cut-up turkey to the broth, simmer for a few more minutes, then enjoy.

There is a Tupperware container in my refrigerator with some of this now. Pearl had some of it for the first time while I was in Chicago and loved it - it’s almost gone now.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pumpkin shortage

Because of a poor crop in the Midwest, we aren't going to have our canned pumpkin to sell this year. It's too bad - our canned pumpkin is a good product. We even won the Taster's Choice award for the Best Tasting Canned Pumpkin in the San Francisco Chronicle a few years ago. Hopefully we will have some next year.

I remember when we first came out with it several years ago. My daughter Beki developed the recipe on the back of our can. We tried lots and lots of versions, and settled on one that had more cinnamon and less allspice in it. My contribution to the process was eating lots of pumpkin, accompanied by Reddi Wip whipped cream topping :).

So today we are doing a taste test. We're trying out the Arrowhead Mills ready to eat pumpkin pie mix in an aseptic package...and comparing it with a pumpkin pie made from our 100% canned pumpkin, left over from last year. They're in the over now...results will be posted later :)

off to Chicago for a trade show

I leave Saturday morning for a trade show in Chicago, called PLMA

It's where actual, real live manufacturers of product exhibit their wares.

I remember the first year I attended, back in the early 90's.

I had been a distributor of natural food products from different "manufacturers." In reality, these manufacturers were like us - marketing companies that had different manufacturers produce their products.

Anyway, I had been distributing products from a number of different manufacturers, and I noticed that on all of the mustard shipping cases, the letter "A" didn't print. So...there was

H in

Westbr e

Norg nic

He lthw y

And I wondered...what are the chances that 4 different manufacturers of mustard all have label printers that don't print the letter A?

Of course, when I opened the cases up to look at the products, the jars were the same, the caps were the same, the ingredients were the same, and in the same order....the nutritional information was the same, and the shape of the labels was the same...and I realized, these products are all being made by the same manufacturer.

So when I went past the mustard manufacturer's booth, and saw the jars of Hain, Westbrae, Norganic and Healthway, my assesment was correct - one company was making all of this mustard. That was almost 20 years ago.

Today, companies use fancy inkjet printers that print the letter A, so it would be harder to track down this information :)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

...from the eMail bag_NO KILL Cat Rescue & Sanctuary uses Natural Value Cat Food

I am the Executive Director of 9th Life Hawaii, Maui's only non-profit, NO KILL Cat Rescue & Sanctuary. You can check us out on our website:

We shelter approximately 200-250 cats on any given day. We have found that our special-needs cats, geriatric cats and chronically ill cats really thrive on your cat food.

Two recent examples: Tests were run on Rama, an older cat, and she tested negative for all the truly bad possibilities. Rama had lost so much weight that she was down to 2 1/2 pounds from 5 pounds. Best diagnosis was irritable bowel syndrome but she would not eat the food that the vet suggested. Figuring she was truly at death's door, we decided to feed her whatever she wanted. We offered her Natural Value. That was about 4 months ago. She now weighs almost 6 pounds.

Rama had lost so much weight that she was down to 2 1/2 pounds from 5 pounds

We thought we might have to euthanize her because she had no quality of life and was barely moving. We decided to try one more thing and that was to feed her as much Natural Value canned food as she would eat. You can see the results and why we believe in your product. Phyllis

Her weight today was 5 lbs. 14.5 oz. her lowest weight was 3 lbs. 7 oz. (she is fat and sassy now compared to that).

2nd story: We had a litter of 4 kittens. 2 grew at a normal rate and now weigh about 5 pounds. The remaining two could not gain weight and regurgitated most foods. We put them both on Natural Value and both have gained weight. The most significant change was the little girl we named Sheba. She had stayed under 1 pound two ounces for months while her siblings weighed around 5 pounds. We switched her to Natural Value and she now weighs 2 pounds, has a healthy appetite and is gaining weight each day.

This kitten is now 7 months old. For the longest time it was touch and go. She weighed 1 pound 2 ounces and could not get over that hump. Putting her on your food twice a day and she now weighs 2 pounds. Still NOT a normal weight, but she gains weight every day on your food.

Sheba had stayed under 1 pound two ounces for months  while her siblings weighed around 5 pounds

We thank you again for such a great product!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Increasing Sales and Profits

I don't have a college degree. I like to say, though, that I have a degree from the University of the Street, School of Hard Knocks :).

Seriously, I learned a lot from reading Business Week, Forbes and Fortune over the years, and some things just seemed to make sense to me.

My simple understanding of business developed accordingly. I discovered that you can make more money by: selling more goods, raising your prices, or cutting your costs. Do all 3 and your profits really rise.

Selling more goods can be broken down 4 ways:

You can sell existing products to existing customers

You can sell existing products to new customers

You can sell new products to existing customers

You can sell new products to new customers

Now, the question is, if I already spend 50% of my time trying to sell existing products to existing customers, and another 50% of my time trying to sell existing products to new customers, it doesn't leave a whole lot of time to sell new products to either existing or new customers...

See the dilema? :)

Does anyone have a day stretcher? :)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Hello. I was on vacation for 2 weeks, off the coast of Mexico, and the Internet didn't work as well as I hoped. I've now been back for a week trying to catch up. In retropspect, it probably wasn't such a good idea to go on vacation right after Expo East, but hindsight is always great.

At least now I know where Topolobampo is :)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Off to Expo East

Hello. I am off to Expo East. We are in Booth 2934. I hope to see our East Coast customers there.

Monday, September 14, 2009

From a consumer in Arizona

Your flaky tuna (small purple can) cat food is getting hard to find! My
cats have the jones for some, and I haven't been able to get any. I'm in
north AZ and my two local stores both say that you're showing out of stock.

Any word on when you might be shipping some? The last time it got this
scarce was when the Chinese melamine was on a killing spree.


We wrote back to Kitty telling her we had 1700 cases in the
warehouse and asked where she wanted them sent to.

Misty loves the purple can too!
Moo loves the purple can.

Friday, September 4, 2009

I am now a Lifetime Marriott Rewards Member!

I received an envelope today from Marriott, informing me I have now earned Lifetime status as a Platinum Elite.

In addition to being in the program for a minimum of 12 years, you need a total of 1000 nights in a Marriott property to qualify...

1000 nights...that's 2.7 years of my life I have spent in a Marriott hotel!

It's the definition of road warrior! 1000 nights...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


While we haven't yet gone back through all of the web pages we are in the process of redesigning, I think the first one we will do is the cat food pages.

We have had some wonderful cats over the years. Many have moved on, but the newest member of the family is Sunshine.

Jody picked him out (along with his brother, Midnight - can you guess his color?)from some animal rescue folks in front of a PetsMart. Sunshine is definitely a lap cat, but he also likes his blanket, and sometimes he likes to sleep on the scratching pad.

His brother left us in February. He just left one day and didn't come back. We have all of our cats "chipped" and a number have "wandered off" over the years - and we were able to get them back because of the chip.

Anyway, this is Sunshine.

Sunshine on his pad

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Show Deals!!!

When we first started in business, and we exhibited at trade shows, some retailers would come up to our booth and ask us what our show deal was.

My response was, "we sell the same quality natural and organic products as the big brands at everyday prices that are 40% to 50% less than our competition."

"That's nice," was sometimes the response. "So what's the show deal?"

Eventually I offered the following hypothetical example:

"If we normally sell a product for $10 a case everyday...

"We'll offer it to you at $11.11 and give you 10% off.

"If 10% isn't enough of a promotion, we can sell it to you for $12.50, and give you 20% off.

"We could even sell it to you for $13.33 a case, and give you 25% off.

"And my final offer: $14.28 and we'll give you 30% off.

"Which deal would you like?" :)

The reaction was divided into 2 categories...most retailers caught on...but some would actually choose 1 of the above scenarios as "the best."

Amazing, isn't it.

Anyway, I had to post this as I prepare to publish our show deals for Expo East. I finally gave up trying to explain that manufacturers raise their prices so they can deal back...

Jody - Beating The Odds

When Jody first got sick, she was "out of it" - the hospital used the term "confused."

When she first woke up from her coma on January 17th, and I told her it was January 17th, and that I had taken her into the hospital on December 5th, her response was, "you mean I missed Christmas."

"Yes," was the answer..."And New Year's Too."

It was only afterwards that we told her how sick she got and how fortunate we all were that she recovered.

So the other night, after she read my blog post about her, we were discussing the odds of her recovery, and came up with the following: (Thank you Wikipedia and WebMD, I think).

severe sepsis - mortality rates range from 20% for sepsis to 40% for severe sepsis

ARDS - The mortality rate varies from 30% to 85%

Klebsiella - It has a high mortality rate of approximately 50%

I'm not a math major. My math skills ended in the 4th Grade with arithmetic. How do you calculate the odds of a person recovering from all 3 of the above??? My daughter Beki took calculus in school - maybe she can figure it out :).

Anyway, we are all focused on her recovery...thankfully...but it was certainly touch and go there for awhile...

Jody's first haircut since November
Jody getting her hair done in June – for the first time since November.

Jody at Starbucks!
Jody in her first outing after 7 months in the hospital and in bed…where else do you go, but Starbucks?.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


I haven't written on the blog about Jody's sickness/illness over the past 10 months. Part of the issue for me is how much of your personal life do you share? But here's a recap.

Last November, Jody's back pain had been getting worse and worse. She was barely able to walk around Thanksgiving and spent most of the weekend in bed. She didn't feel like eating either, and of course, lack of food translates into lack of energy....

We had made several trips to the doctor's office, and the doctors gave her pain pills and muscle relaxers, but it didn't seem to be doing any good.

Finally, on December 5th, the day after her birthday, we went back to the doctor's office, and he sent us to get an MRI at the local hospital.

Well, it turned out that she had sepsis (severe sepsis), ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome), and some of the clots that had developed in her stomach got into her lungs. She was in the hospital for 9 weeks as they worked on her - and went through being intubated and when that didn't work, they performed a tracheotomy.

When she left the hospital on February 12th, she was bedbound for the next 3 months. They needed for her to get some of her strength back before they could do reconstructive back surgery, to fix the holes in her spine from the sepsis. That surgery was on May 11th, and after another month in bed, she was able to sit for short periods of time, which then progressed to some walking.
Spine Surgery
Pictures of Jody’s new spine…rods and screws hold her new cemented spine to the existing one.

On June 12th, a month after her surgery, she got a cane, ditched the walker, and soon thereafter began aqua therapy, which she does 3 times a week. She is still doing aqua therapy and has just started riding a stationery bike.

Jody's new cane

My new cane - pink wth blue and purple flowers.

Of course, while she was in the hospital, all NV business pretty much ground to a halt. I was able to communicate via text messages from the hospital, but that really is no way to run a business...

Since February, Jody has had a full time personal assistant, Pearl, who helps Jody with everything...and I mean everything! Just taking Jody to her therapy appointments, doctor's appointments, weekly blood tests for her Coumadin has meant that I can start working again...and that doesn't include what Pearl does in helping out with bathroom stuff, bathing, meal prep and shopping, keeping track of medications, both ordering them from the pharmacy and picking them up and giving them to Jody...making doctor's appointments, etc...She's been a godsend....Thanks, Pearl.

I also found someone wonderful, Linda, to update the web page and she also helped me set up this blog. Jody always wanted to update the website but we realized it was going to be a long time before she would be able to work again...all I can say is thanks, Linda.

Graphic Designer Web, and Print

As I have talked with people, its incredible how many families have similar stories of family illness...and all of the issues and problems they go through dealing with them. When you're healthy, you don't think about these things. When Jody was in the hospital, our next door neighbors brought me was wonderful. After spending 8-10-12-14 hours a day at the hospital, the last thing I wanted to do was come home and cook.

I hope this explains why i haven't been able to respond to recent inquiries in my normally prompt manner.

Thursday, August 20, 2009 reviews our Natural Value 100% Organic Popcorn

Natural Value, A Product That Lives Up To It’s Name!

Picking up the bag in the market is when this company “had me”. The graphics clearly tell what’s inside, but it was the feel of the bag that convinced me to try Natural Value 100% Organic Popcorn. This bag is much thicker than different brands of popcorn with poly-bags, ensuring that the correct amount of moisture remains inside each kernel. Customers of premium products expect resealable bags and Nature Value comes through in this department as well.

The popcorn kernels are large, producing very large flakes. Natural Value appears to have gone after the all around popcorn when it comes to taste. Both their yellow and white varieties have earthy, balanced aromas and tastes that you come to expect from quality organic popcorn. For general snacking or for recipes, this popcorn does it all!
Natural Value's 100% Organic Yellow Popcorn
Natural Value popcorn is certified organic and kosher and is GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) free! They mean it when they say “natural”!

Another thing I like about Natural Value is their commitment to fair trade and manufacturing entirely in the United States. The company’s mission statement tells us, “We pick a manufacturer, pay them a fair price, and then stick with them. We don’t shop around for packers just to save a few cents and we aren’t moving our manufacturing business to China.”

In an era when the Food and Drug Administration has a harder and harder time protecting the American food supply, I think it’s important to patronize companies that are committed to ethical policies and practices. If you’re looking for different brands of popcorn, Natural Value is a must try that you can feel great about serving to your family! This is Primo Popcorn!
Natural Value's 100% Organic Popcorn

Friday, August 14, 2009

My cat is "ELLIS"

Hello Gary,

As the founder of your company I thought you would like to know about this. My cat is "ELLIS" and he won the Meow Mix Contest on Animal Planet in 2006. He's America's Top Cat (voted that way). Here's the catch, he will only eat your cat food. He will only eat the two tuna varieties you make in the blue and pink cans. I actually drive across town twice a month to the store that carries it to buy it.

You make a great product. Keep up the great work.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

We've Eliminated the Plastic Scoop...

...from our 11 lb Natural Value Detergent Powder. (We never had one in the 5 lb Detergent Powder).

When we first started producing the detergent, our supplier suggested we include a plastic scoop, and we did.

About a month ago, a consumer wrote in and asked why we were still putting a plastic scoop in our detergent box. I wrote back that we had been doing it for years and years, and really hadn't thought about it...but now that they brought it up, we would discontinue doing that.

So the plastic scoop is gone!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Shrinking Package Sizes

In the last year, lots of manufacturers have shrunk their package sizes in lieu of raising prices.

We've noticed that 4 packs bathroom tissue seems to be one of those pack sizes that shrinks...a lot.

Our 4 pack regular rolls have been 250 count sheets for quite some time. Our competitor's sheet counts have dropped to the 180's and 170's. Same with our "double rolls" - we remain at 400 sheets per roll...but apparently, the new "standard" is 352 sheets per roll. Who chose that number, anyway?

Same thing has happened with canned tuna. We are still at 6oz cans. Many of our competitors have gone to 5oz cans for the same price.

And Organic pasta! Our Organic pasta has always been in 1 lb packages - just like our biggest competitor. Now they have downsized to 12 oz, 10 oz and even 9oz packages. We're keeping our pasta in 1 lb packages.

We're looking at producing Organic Macaroni and Cheese. The standard used to be 7 1/2 ounces - 6 ounces of pasta and 1 1/2 ounces of cheese. Now the whole package is 6 oz.

Are consumers fooled by these downsized packages? I don't think so.

We're going to keep doing what we're doing, and not downsize our packages, as long as we can.

Monday, August 10, 2009

What happened to the Walnut Scrubber Sponge?

Years ago, we started working with this family business that produced scrubber sponges. We then worked with them to develop a scrubber made from walnut shells - which we thought would be just as abrasive, yet more environmentally friendly, as nylon. We were right. Our test kitchen (read:home kitchen) results showed the walnut scrubbers lasted as long as the nylon scrubbers.

Unfortunately, the company making our scrubbers got bought out, and the new company decided that they weren't interested in the "niche business" of making a walnut scrubber, so for now, they have been discontinued.

We are working with a new supplier to develop a walnut scrubber. and have received a few samples that we are using, and have sent out to some folks to try. We hope to have them back on the market shortly.

Lidia, one of our product testers, using our new Walnut Scrubber Sponge

Saturday, August 8, 2009

My first blog post

Welcome to my first blog post. Where do I begin? At the beginning? No, how about as of today. Seriously, I am looking forward to first job back in the, ahem, 70's, I was a magazine I hope I remember how to write. I plan to write every day and welcome your responses...thanks...gary