WHAT WE DO

We unite our region’s diverse Good Food and Natural Products industry…

To accelerate business growth…

To foster networking, collaboration and cooperation…

And increase access to healthy and sustainability-focused products

The Good Food and Natural Products industry has enjoyed robust growth, reflecting the growing market for healthier and more sustainably produced goods. Naturally Chicago, launched in May 2019, provides a much-needed, year-round platform for the industry’s myriad interests. A program of nonprofit FamilyFarmed… co-founded by industry powerhouses KeHE, Presence Marketing and SPINS… and affiliated with the Naturally Network based in Boulder, Colorado… Naturally Chicago’s goal is no less than to elevate our city’s well-earned reputation as an international leader in this sector.

Please scroll through these highlights of Naturally Chicago’s running start and the immediate impact we have made… together.

LOCAL FOCUS, NATIONAL IMPACT

Since our launch in May 2019, Naturally Chicago has built a robust schedule of programming around one goal: providing Good Food and Natural Products businesses with the state-of-the art information and access to leading industry experts they need to grow and thrive.

Our series of webinars and interactive online discussions, inaugurated in April, does just that: They help entrepreneurs power up and power through by drawing upon local leaders (including those at Naturally Chicago co-founders FamilyFarmed, KeHE, Presence Marketing and SPINS) and national industry titans such as organic CPG pioneer John Foraker and serial innovator Seth Goldman.

Our webinars have ranged from highly topical (“Food Safety, Operations and Supply Chain in the COVID Era” and “Brand Positioning in the Pandemic”) to news and views that businesses can use regardless of the circumstances (“Support Systems for New Brands,” “Stoking Momentum at High-Growth Brands,” “Better for You, Certified”).

A total audience of more than 2,000 has registered for our Navigating the New Normal, Sound Off and Office Hours programming.

GATHERING OUR COMMUNITY

KICKOFF KEYNOTE WITH WALTER ROBB — MAY 2019

Naturally Chicago’s first major event — held at the BMO Harris Auditorium in Chicago’s Loop — featured an industry legend: Walter Robb, the longtime Co-CEO of Whole Foods Market. The event also featured a panel of rising-star food entrepreneurs, Alison Velazquez of Skinny Souping, Megan Klein of Field + Farmer, and Jordan Buckner of TeaSquares, moderated by Ryan Pintado-Vertner of Smoketown LLC.

“This opportunity for you to build a regional ecosystem here, a strong one, a vibrant one, is not just a contributor into the success of these fine entrepreneurs, but it’s going to build community and it’s going to build economic strength. It’s going to build jobs.” — Walter Robb

THE GROWING NATURAL INDUSTRY, WITH KEHE AND SPINS — OCTOBER 2019

Our second big gathering featured leaders of two of Naturally Chicago’s founding companies: KeHE, a leading national distributor of natural products , and SPINS, the leading provider of data and insights for the natural industry. KeHE CEO Brandon Barnholt’s keynote focused on the rapid market growth in the industry; Anu Goel, SPINS’ President of Client Growth Solutions, gave a data-rich presentation on the State of the Natural Industry. Our generous sponsors get a shout-out at every Naturally Chicago event.

WINTER WELLNESS PARTY AT VITAL PROTEINS — JANUARY 2020

Naturally Chicago got 2020 off to a rousing start with the Winter Wellness Party, held at the headquarters of Vital Proteins in Chicago’s Fulton Market District – acknowledged in 2019 by Inc. magazine as one of the year’s 10 most beautiful office designs. Our first members-only event prompted nearly 100 new signups, and the energy in the room was amazing: You could just tell new friendships and business relationships were taking shape. Great well-focused food and mocktails… so much fun!

Vital Proteins CEO Kurt Seidensticker, a Naturally Chicago Board member who turned the collagen products marketer into one of the industry’s fastest-growing companies, spoke to the crowd, and a discussion on gut health was held by Dr. Ed McDonald of UChicago Medicine and Julie Smolyansky of Lifeway Kefir.

NATURALLY CHICAGO INSIGHTS PANELS AT SPINS

Providing learning experiences for entrepreneurs — information they need to grow — is one of the biggest reasons Naturally Chicago exists. In 2019, we held these three live Naturally Chicago Insights events at SPINS, a Naturally Chicago co-founder.

SIMPLE MILLS ON DIGITAL MARKETING — JUNE 2019

Simple Mills is a Chicago company whose delicious simple, whole food-based almond flour baking mixes, crackers, cookies and frosting have spawned enormous growth over just a few years. The company’s social media marketing played a huge role in that growth. The first event at SPINS featured Michelle Lorge, Simple Mills’ Vice President of Marketing, and members of her team.

KEHE & FRIENDS ON DISTRIBUTORS — July 2019

This Insights event featured Katie Paul, VP of Category Management & Growth Solutions at KeHE, a leading distributor of Good Food and Natural Products (and a Naturally Founder co-founder), joined by Amy Feldman, Senior Executive Vice President for Sales at Lifeway Kefir. They were joined for the Q&A by Patrick Sheridan of the Independent Natural Food Retailers Association and Jim Slama, Co-Founder of Naturally Chicago.

WORKING WITH WALMART — October 2019

For most of its history, Walmart was the epitome of a conventional retail grocer. But rising consumer demand caused a strategy shift, and now Walmart is assertively seeking Good Food brands. New Nexus Group, a consultancy specializing in working with Walmart, headed this Insights. Chicago companies that have succeeded with Walmart were represented by Tracey Halama of Vital Proteins and Matt Matros of Limitless Beverages.

ELEVATING ENTREPRENEURS

NATURALLY CHICAGO PITCH SLAM  — NOVEMBER 2019

In its first year, Naturally Chicago presented the entrepreneur Pitch Slam at the annual Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference. Nine businesses, from more than 70 applicants, competed for a package of in-kind services and cash valued at more than $100,000. Naturally Chicago will present the Pitch Slam at the first-ever virtual Financing & Innovation Conference this December 1-3.

Elliott Cohen (above) of Parks & Nash, producer of bone broth instant soup cups, made the pitch that won the Judges’ Prize. The company shared the prize package with Kailey Donewald (right) and Sacred Serve, which makes delicious, rich — and healthy — plant-based gelato.

We also are expanding our year-round efforts to help local brands build up, through features such as our weekly “5 Local Brands to Watch” articles and social media in collaboration with SPINS, and the coming-soon online Naturally Chicago Marketplace, where you will be able to buy themed boxes of delectable treats from a variety of local producers.

WE’LL MINGLE AGAIN

MORNING MINGLES — WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

The very first Naturally Chicago event, on May 3, 2019, was a Morning Mingle. A manifestation of our goals to catalyze collaboration and build community across the industry, each Mingle — held most Fridays through the end of February at LYFE Kitchen in the River North neighborhood — featured the best Good Food and Natural Products networking in Chicago, plus an informative presentation by an industry expert; Marc Thomann (right) of Spiral Sun Ventures was our kickoff speaker. We look forward to a return to live events, and mingling again with our friends.