In fact, were it not for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial companies, we would not likely see the robust, and constantly growing, natural, organic, specialty, gourmet and ethnic foods industry that exists today in the U.S.
Entrepreneurs - be they chefs, farmers, former food industry executives and workers, ex-lawyers, accountants and doctors, or just plain people with ideas, were the first to create domestic natural, organic and specialty foods products in the U.S., often selling them directly to consumers to start, along with peddling their wares from store-to-store, door-to-door, talking retailers into putting the items on the shelves to give them a try, which is something that's still done in the business in varying degrees.
Entrepreneurial natural and specialty foods distributors, along with pioneering natural and specialty foods retailers and grocers, also played and continue to play a key role in creating and growing the natural, organic and specialty foods industries in the U.S.
It's been only since about the mid-1980's in fact when larger food companies became involved in the business in a significant way (with the exception of imported specialty foods), primarily doing so in the beginning by acquiring many of these entrepreneurial companies, which over the years grew into substantial businesses.
Today, natural, organic and specialty foods products, or packaged goods, of all kinds are big business. The products line the shelves of even the most basic supermarkets, and are sold in discount stores run by giants like Walmart, Costco, Target and many others, for example.
And of course, in many cases yesterday's natural, organic or specialty food product (or category) is today's mainstream or near-mainstream product or category.
For example, look at organic and premium/specialty coffee.
Just 15 years ago buying and drinking anything but Folgers or Maxwell House (plus a few other mainstream coffee brands) was considered something only the rich or elite consumer did in the U.S. Today, buying and drinking organic and premium coffee is something that cuts across all income and social class consumer lines.
What about olive oil and balsamic vinegar?
As recently as the early-to-mid 1990's in the U.S. (and mid-to-late 1990's in the case of balsamic vinegar) both products were considered niche, specialty items. Organic olive oil particularly was a super-niche item.
Today, olive oil - and to a lessor but very significant degree balsamic vinegar - are essentially mainstream products. Organic olive oil isn't mainstream at present, primarily because of its higher cost, but its much more than a super-niche item than it was just a few years ago.
The case history of natural, organic and specialty foods items that have moved from super-niche and niche to near-mainstream and even mainstream is extensive.
Entrepreneurs still remain the backbone of the U.S. natural, organic and specialty food product (we include beverages) industries. It's the start-up companies, and those in the small-to-medium range, where the majority of idea-generation and innovation remains today.
To celebrate this phenomenon - and some of the entrepreneurs leading this charge, particularly despite the bad economic times the U.S. remains in - starting today, and running until the end of March, Natural-Specialty Foods Memo is showcasing various natural, organic and specialty foods entrepreneurial companies on Twitter, at our www.twitter.com/NSFoodsMemo feed, which you can see in the top right hand corner of the blog.
If you go to our NSFoodsMemo twitter page linked above, look for the #foodentrepreneur hashtag on our tweets. Such hashtags are a way of allowing for a search on Twitter. For example, if you type in #foodentrepreneurs in the Twitter "search" box, all of our tweets, and those of any other feed using the hashtag, will come up for your viewing.
We're also tieing-in our #foodentrepreneurs "tweet showcase" on our Twitter page with the blog.
We will include all of the tweets in this post, adding them in real time. At the end of March this post will contain all of the #foodentrepreneur showcase tweets we make from today to March 31, 2010.
We're calling the project: "From Twitter to the Blog: The Natural~Specialty Foods Memo Natural, Organic & Specialty Food Entrepreneurs' Showcase," which is the title of this post.
As you click on the links on the tweets (below) about the various entrepreneurial food companies in this post and read about them, we invite you to comment, using the "comments" link at the end of this post.
We welcome comments about the companies, particularly if you've tried their products and have an opinion of them, but also in general - your views, opinions and analysis.
Below then are the tweets comprising our "From Twitter to the Blog: The Natural~Specialty Foods Memo Natural, Organic & Specialty Food Entrepreneurs' Showcase" project.
March 11, 2010 Tweets:
~Rori’s Ice Cream is the 'hottest' ice cream in Santa Barbara, California http://tinyurl.com/ybhkw4u #foodentrepreneurs
~Berkeley CA's June Taylor Jams mixes organic fruits with a bit of politics http://tinyurl.com/ykvk7rp #foodentrepreneurs
~Grocer @locali tells us the vegan desserts made by @chloecoscarelli are selling faster than... hotcakes #foodentrepreneurs. (And we were right - 32 minutes later locali tweeted back this: @locali @NSFoodsMemo: We're actually sold out already! Unfortunately, we won't have more back in stock until March 24th. We're counting the days.) Some of the @chloecoscarelli vegan desserts on display @locali in Hollywood CA http://twitpic.com/1661ea #foodentrepreneurs
~Crave Foods is bringing Indian street food to America via the grocery store http://tinyurl.com/ygvcmfz #foodentrepreneurs
~Mother/daughter #foodentrepreneurs Janet Owings & Mary Schulman focus on innovation of all kinds @Snikiddy http://www.snikiddy.com/
March 12, 2010 Tweets
~Fast-growing @udisglutenfree introducing new granola, baked goods at #expowest http://tinyurl.com/yjakgf2 #foodentrepreneurs
~Beryl's Boulder-based Bobo's debuts bold new Bobo's Oat Bars at #expowest http://tinyurl.com/y9do22x #foodentrepreneurs
March 13, 2010 Tweets
~Agave Dream, lead by two moms with a cold, creamy dream, is growing its brand http://tinyurl.com/y9h9ep8 #foodentrepreneurs
~Tanka Bar adds value - and its CEO was honored for it and more at #expowest http://tinyurl.com/yegaa9n #foodentrepreneurs
~The #foodentrepreurs at http://www.falafelrepublic.com/ want you to visit their Falafel Republic often http://tinyurl.com/yexe66a
~Couple aims to revolutionize bottled water w/their @h2oboxwater water-in-a-box http://tinyurl.com/yhmd5ub #foodentrepreneurs
~Blue Horizon [@BHOrganicWild] goes wild...organic, sustainable & gluten-free http://tinyurl.com/yhle6eq #foodentrepreneurs
~Bluebird Grain Farms finds a niche growing/marketing ancient, heirloom grains http://tinyurl.com/yznu2sd #foodentrepreneurs
March 14, 2010 Tweets
~Diabetes led farmer Bob Wilt to the blueberry, and he created @SunsetOrganics http://tinyurl.com/y9zlg7b #foodentrepreneurs
~Moms Kristin & Kirsten started @RevolutionFoods to revolutionize how kids eat http://tinyurl.com/yjcknhn #foodentrepreneurs
~The birth of her son led Gigi Lee Chang to start frozen baby food Co. @PlumOrganics http://www.plumorganics.com/ #foodentrepreneurs
March 15, 2010 Tweets
~Vans Natural Foods is getting a makeover: New logo, packaging, website & more http://tinyurl.com/yevolz6 #foodentrepreneurs
March 16, 2010 Tweets
~"White-Girl Tamale Maker" Deborah Stern merges tradition w/nutrition @lagueratamalera http://www.gttamales.com/ #foodentrepreneurs
March 17, 2010 Tweets
~Bert Cohen's Surf Sweets makes the organic versions of your favorite candies http://tinyurl.com/y8fpqog #foodentrepreneurs
March 19, 2010 Tweets
March 20, 2010 Tweets
March 21, 2010 Tweets
March 22, 2010 Tweets
March 23, 2010 Tweets
March 25, 2010 Tweets
March 26, 2010 Tweets
March 27, 2010 Tweets
March 29, 2010 Tweets
March 30, 2010 Tweets
March 31, 2010 Tweets
[Readers: If you know of an entrepreneurial natural, organic, specialty/gourmet or ethnic foods company (or individual) you think we should showcase in our project, feel free to send us the information at firstname.lastname@example.org. As much information as possible is requested, particularly a website address.
Of course, we reserve the right to decide if we showcase the company in a Twitter tweet and in the blog.
Follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NSFoodsMemo