Naturally Chicago’s first big event of 2020, the Winter Wellness Party at Vital Proteins on January 30, set the bar high for the rest of the year’s programming. About 250 people gathered at Vital Proteins’ beautiful space in Fulton Market — cited by Inc. magazine as one of the 10 most beautiful new offices in the world in 2019 — and enjoyed delicious, wellness-focused food and mocktails.

Even more importantly, they enjoyed each other’s company. The buzz in the room was amazing. Providing year-round networking and collaboration opportunities is a central priority for Naturally Chicago, and we just know that new business connections — and new friendships — were made.

Naturally Chicago has so many people to thank, this may look like an Oscar winner’s speech at the Academy Awards. We are grateful to everyone who made this event a success

Vital Proteins: First of all, our hosts, including Kurt Seidensticker, Vital Proteins’ Founder/CEO (and Naturally Chicago Board member), who gave a presentation at the Party, and his team, whose collegial partnership played a huge role in the success of the Wellness Party.

Vital Proteins was one of the first to market with collagen products, which have made a huge impact in the wellness aisles and also have made Vital Proteins a breakout star in the burgeoning natural beauty sector. Great products and innovative marketing have made Vital Proteins one of the fastest-growing companies in the Natural Products industry.

And their offices are awesome.




To learn more about the company, check out Naturally Chicago’s article about the presentation by Tracey Halama, Vital Proteins’ Vice President of Sales, at our January 24 Friday Morning Mingle.

Our Speakers: Along with Kurt Seidensticker’s presentation, there was a chat on the key wellness topic of gut health, featuring Dr. Edwin McDonald — a UChicago gastroenterologist who also is a trained chef and food-as-health blogger and video star — and Julie Smolyansky, CEO of Lifeway, the nation’s leading producer of probiotic kefir.

Our New Members: The success of the Winter Wellness Party goes well beyond the crowd and conviviality. Naturally Chicago’s membership rolls grew by 91 people in January, with much of that growth spurt driven by a promotion that provided new members with free admission to the event. We are confident that they will benefit from their participation with Naturally Chicago, and we will benefit from the larger community they have helped build.

Our Food Providers: The food served at the Party was mostly plant-based, reflecting the rising consumer demand for alternatives to meat. And it was delicious.

We are so grateful to our partners at FIG Catering (a Naturally Chicago sponsor); Beyond Meat (whose Executive Chair Seth Goldman gave the keynote at the Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference in November 2019; Kitchfix, Jenny’s Tofu and Sacred Serve, all graduates of FamilyFarmed’s Good Food Accelerator; Soup Explorers, a member of the brand new 6th Accelerator cohort; Lifeway Foods; Grecian Delight; Art of Dosa; Simple Mills (whose CEO, Katlin Smith, is on the Naturally Chicago Board); US Foods; Garfield Produce; and IVME. And thanks to our on-trend “Mocktail” partner Ritual Zero Proof, Aspire Healthy Energy Drinks, Twisted Alchemy,Limitless, and Vital Proteins, whose mixology magic made sure nobody missed alcoholic beverages at our Wellness Party.

That Goody Bag, Though: The goody bag was so packed with delicious, donated, wellness-focused products that recipients may have been able to skip grocery shopping the following weekend. Thanks to Vital Proteins, Asutra, Simple Mills, Phyter, Lifeway, Parks & Nash, Wasa, Alō, Wild Garden, Navitas Organics, Crunchmaster, Milkadamia and Clif Bar for enabling us to stuff those bags.

The After-Party: Thanks so much to Time Out Market, the big food hall with chef-driven food located just across Fulton Market Street from Vital Proteins, for hosting the Winter Wellness After-Party.

Our Naturally Chicago Stalwarts: Thanks, of course, to members of the Naturally Chicago Board of Directors and our Sponsors. We could not present events such as the Winter Wellness Party without your ongoing support and contributions.

So what’s next? We’ll have more to say about that soon, Naturally Chicago is in the process of planning more great, fun, informative, community-building events. In the meantime, we have a robust schedule of upcoming Friday Morning Mingles, starting with this Friday, February 7, which will spotlight the Good Food Accelerator; Shelby Parchman, the program’s Managing Director, is our guest speaker. Please visit the Naturally Chicago Events page for more information.


Photos by Bob Benenson/Naturally Chicago