Written by Ashley Douglas, Assistant Wellness Manager
I recently had the pleasure of visiting cozy Manchester, New Hampshire to tour the MegaFood vitamin manufacturing facilities. Boy, what a treat! Not only did I get a sneak peek of the autumn foliage, but I was immediately impressed with the MegaFood company itself. Founded in 1973, MegaFood is a whole food, “farm to tablet,” vitamin manufacturer that has created a Slo-Food process focusing on quality Foodstate Nutrients. Sleepy New Hampshire makes the ideal home for this perfectly slow paced company. Although they aren’t out to break any speed records, they are out to do it right and as their company’s slogan implies, they’re in the business of “changing lives.” Using as many United States sourced ingredients as possible, MegaFood prides itself in its relationship with US farmers and growers. Under the direction of only their second ever CEO, Robert Craven, the company takes a strong stance in the local community as well as the natural foods industry paving the way for Non-GMO efforts and labeling laws. Sitting across the table from Robert proved to me that MegaFood as a whole really is approachable and committed to making personal connections.
As a member of a group of only seven natural food retailer employees, I was able to receive a behind-the-scenes-tour of the MegaFood compound, learning about their patented Slo-Food Process and meeting some of the masterminds behind the company. Walking through the plant, we started in the chemistry lab and learned where MegaFood’s quality control starts at the beginning. The chemists test for many things including purity, known allergens and toxicity of all of their ingredients. One of the things I was most impressed with is the amount of quality control MegaFood puts into their product along every step of the way. They are a “vertically integrated” company, doing most of the work inhouse. One of the only things MegaFood sends out for testing is pesticide testing- they want to make sure that the hundreds of pesticides they are testing for are up to date on a regular basis, thank you for that MegaFood! Our group was able to see the process of fresh frozen oranges being cold-milled and thrown into the vat that removes the oxygen, stabilizes the vitamin, adds the enzymes and sends the final product onto the fancy Refractance Window Dryer (RWD). The RWD is the meat and potatoes of this process- MegaFood is the only multivitamin company to take advantage of such process. The RWD is a machine that allows for a gentle, low heat process that the vitamins and herbs that MegaFood extracts from whole food go through to get ready to be assembled into tablet form. Straying from a heated process throughout production allows for the color and taste of the whole foods to come through, it also allows for a very high retention of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in the final product. After the dryer, the products are sent through a tableting process that takes up to 72 hours to complete before bottling. MegaFood is using machinery manufactured in Germany in the 1940s to complete this slow process. They want to make sure that they do it right, rather than in mass quantities. Just another thing that I was really impressed with, and noticed with my own MegaFood products, is the fact that they put an extra tablet in each of their bottles, just to make sure the never short their customers! They really do focus on doing things right and going the extra mile for their customers.
Going in, I had a ton of questions, both from customers in the Wellness Department and myself as a MegaFood consumer. ? Luckily, on the trip, I was able to get ALL of my questions and more answered through one-on-one conversations with Mr. Craven, the CEO and one of my favorite meets of the trip, MegaFood’s formulator of fifteen years, Stacy Gillespie. Here are a few questions the Wellness Staff have received and hopefully will be helpful when shopping MegaFood products:
Why doesn’t MegaFood make products in capsule form? Stacy explained that MegaFood sticks with tablets for two main reasons; A) the coating that MegaFood uses on their tablets is a quarter of the thickness of a capsule, making it easier on the digestive system and B) one tablets contains three capsules worth of FoodState Nutrients. Capsules can be more “fluffy” than a nutrient dense tablet.
Why does there seem to be less in MegaFood products than other vitamin companies? MegaFood only presents nutrients as found in nature. They don’t believe in falsifying potencies not naturally found in foods. They also are going on the theory that you are receiving nutrients from food sources which should make up the difference, so make sure to get your daily dose of that kale!! A great example that really hit home for me- the United States has the highest consumption of dairy products in the world, but we also have the highest osteoporosis rates, sometimes less is just more. Choosing quality food and quality ingredients makes less is more make sense.
How does MegaFood support the little guys, like our Moscow Food Co-op? MegaFood excels at helping the little guys. They do cater to retailers both big and small, but have some great programs to help out Co-ops and mom ‘n’ pop shops. MegaFood offers a purchase program for small retailers, the Co-op included, to allow us to provide our customers with competitive prices. They have also recently offered free shipping and a 24-hour ship window to all small orders. If a big order comes in at the same time, can you believe that MegaFood ships out the smaller order first?? Perhaps the biggest, most important iniative that MegaFood has created and stands behind is combating “mass slippage.” Mr. Craven has created an entire movement around mass slippage. According to Craven, “mass slippage is when natural products slip from our key categories onto mass grocery and retail shelves.” For more information on this movement, visit www.megafood.com/massslippage.
Just from whom does MegaFood source their food? MegaFood works with more and more United States based producers each year, with four new suppliers currently in the works. Two of their biggest are Uncle Matt’s Organic in Clermont, Florida and Stahlbush Island Farm in our own backyard in Corvallis, Oregon. Uncle Matt’s supplies MegaFood with loads of citrus and Stahlbush provides a variety of foods including spinach and many other quality ingredients. MegaFood has very high standards when choosing suppliers- Stahlbush Farms was recently chosen as a partner based on not only their quality, but their negative carbon footprint as a very large producer! Both Uncle Matt’s orange juice and Stahlbush frozen products can be found on the Co-op’s grocery shelves.
What is in store for MegaFood, being such a small and seeming behind the times company in this fast paced industry? Just in the past three years has MegaFood enlisted a qualified team devoted to marketing. In the next few months, you will see a new website, updated branding, a strong social media presence and readily available information to you as the consumer. The new website will include a questionnaire to help you chose the best MegaFood products for your needs. MegaFood is also working on improved training for retail associates as well as wellness trainings and courses for community members sponsored and backed by the esteemed Dr. Weil. Watch for announcements on these classes, coming soon to our Co-op community!