SNACK FOODS Nature's Path

Nature's Path is known for its breakfast cereals, but it continues to blaze new trails in other categories. Case in point: The Richmond, British Columbia-based company recently forged an alliance with health guru Dr. Andrew Weil, whose endorsement will grace a soon-to-be-released line of pure fruit-and-nut bars. Not bad for a company founded more than 20 years ago and still owned by the same family.

Nature's Path is known for its breakfast cereals, but it continues to blaze new trails in other categories. Case in point: The Richmond, British Columbia-based company recently forged an alliance with health guru Dr. Andrew Weil, whose endorsement will grace a soon-to-be-released line of pure fruit-and-nut bars. Not bad for a company founded more than 20 years ago and still owned by the same family.

“We're just one of a handful of these companies,” said Maria Emmer Aanes, director of marketing for the British Columbia-based manufacturer. “There aren't many of us left.”

Being family-owned and operated certainly hasn't stunted its growth. Nature's Path holds top share in four organic food categories, including snack bars and cold cereal. In the snack area, the company offers whole-grain-crust, fruit-filled Pie-Oh-My! pies; organic Toaster Pastries; organic EnviroKidz cookies; and organic Signature Series upscale crackers, as well as the new bars aimed particularly at Baby Boomers.

“That was an opportunity for us to target an aging demographic that we felt wasn't covered in the Nature's Path brand,” said Emmer Aanes. “[Dr. Weil] is definitely popular with the Boomer category.”

The Canadian company is active in promoting the health benefits of hemp, and has begun including the plant's fiber in a new line of HempPlus Organic Hot Oatmeal. Each serving has 4 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein, as well as nine essential amino acids, all from hulled hemp seed.

Nature's Path has also expanded its aggressive sustainability focus by packaging its entire selection of cereals into the company's EnviroBox — a 10% smaller, fully recyclable cardboard shell. With this, Nature's Path is able to make a lighter footprint without sacrificing product quantity.

The smaller box not only saves shelf space, but cuts fuel consumption as well with improved delivery efficiency. By 2012, Nature's Path hopes to reduce its overall emissions by 20%.

“We have a higher purpose than just pumping out cereal,” said Emmer Aanes.

Through all of this, though, the question looms: Will Nature's Path stay independent? Emmer Aanes says that a succession plan is already in place within the founding Stephens family. Arran Stephens, company president, put it more plainly during a recent interview on CNBC: “We will go down with our boots on.”