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Jen Marshall’s natural products background began by slinging organic food for The Sunflower Restaurant and nutritional counseling for dogs and cats at Colorado Canines. In 2005 she created a media awareness program for CORE, Colorado’s sustainable business trade association. Managing the promotional campaigns for the 2006 and 2007 Sustainable Opportunities Summit, Jen honed her skills of juggling numerous tasks at once. She was a member of the Naturally Boulder Taskforce helping to organize networking events. Jen’s career at The Fresh Ideas Group began in 2006, and she has since landed many influential stories for her clients.  During her free time you can find Jen hiking with her dog, practicing yoga, seeing live music and attempting to speak Spanish.
TRE: Hi Jen, thanks for chatting with us. What is your current relationship with food?
JM: Ha!  That is complicated question.  I was raised in a food-loving Italian family - lots of pasta, bread and meat.  I always loved food because of the long, drawn-out dinners.  Still, my favorite thing to do with my friends is cook dinner together or go out to eat.  However, I discovered in my late-20’s that I had an intolerance to gluten and dairy.  My eating habits changed drastically and now I still eat for pleasure, but with an added does of healing.
TRE: Many people with food intolerances don’t even realize it, how did you first discover that you needed to change what you were eating?
JM: I just felt bad - all the time!  I was working at the Sunflower Restaurant in Boulder at the time.  Back then they really catered to special diets and allergies.  I learned a lot from the owner and executive chef at the time (they are under new ownership now) and my co-workers on the “dangers” of food and the benefits of eating right for your body.  I began to seek more and more information and finally landed in a place and time when I was ready to make changes and sacrifices.
TRE: Going gluten-free is an intimidating prospect, tell us - how hard is it? Be honest!
JM: It’s hard!  However, 6 years ago it was harder. Back then, I completely stopped eating bread, bagels, pasta, burritos, etc.  I found myself eating rice and beans for breakfast!  Which is actually better for you then cold cereal anyway.  Eating on the go is really hard - traveling is worse.  I have to plan ahead and pack my meals.  I always had a bag of nuts or jerky in the purse.  I do have to say that the product innovation in the last couple of years has significantly improved.  I can find gluten free breads, cookies and pasta that is actually really good!  It is still a challenge to find them dairy free too.  Pamela’s cookies are amazing!  Udi’s gluten-free bread is good to, but not dairy free. I also just came across goodEbar, which are protein dense snack bars, but more like a dense piece of banana bread.  Delicious!
TRE: It’s funny you should mention goodEbar, I ran into the founders Chuck & Tori at least 4 times during Naturally Boulder Days (read my coverage of the PitchSlam, goodEbar was the fifth pitch). Gluten-free certainly seemed like a consistent theme, with many new products on the horizon. So, obviously the sacrifices have been worth it?
JM: Yeah, I also really enjoyed meeting Tori!  The sacrifices were definitely worth it.  I feel much better and am just happier. 
TRE: So you mentioned working at a restaurant, is your current job food related as well?
JM: Yes.  My personal path of healing and nutrition coupled with professional marketing training led me to The Fresh Ideas Group or FIG, a strategic communications agency specializing in the organic and natural products industry.  Personally I work with food companies – R. W. Knudsen and Santa Cruz Organic, Whole Foods Market as well as other “green” companies such as Eco-Products, which is a manufacturer of compostable food service items – cups, plates, bowls made from plants not oil.  Additionally, I work with Naturally Boulder, a trade association which supports and fosters growth of natural products companies in the Boulder area.  FIG is the perfect combination of my interests. 
TRE:  How large is the education gap right now between people who care about healthy, whole foods, and those who don’t? As a marketer, I’m sure this is one of your primary challenges?
JM: We do deal with that a lot, however the gap is narrowing.  Unfortunately it is because of actual tragedies and scares - children getting sick from cold medicine, E-coli found in meat, toxins in plastic, etc.  But as evidenced by more and more companies creating healthier products and large brand names “catching on”, consumers are paying more attention. If Clorox can create a line of botanical cleaners, shoppers start to wonder if there is something to that.  When Wal-Mart began to stock their shelves with organic products, making them more available and more affordable, shoppers learn more about the benefits.  The natural products industry continues to grow by double digits each year and is now at $62 billion in sales.
TRE: I recently read that shoppers at na
tural & organic supermarkets are not especially price sensitive. However, it’s a different story at Wal-Mart. Will organic prices will come down as the market matures and demand increases? It seems that price is the biggest sticking point for the majority of Americans.
JM: Where is my crystal ball?  Economics 101 would tell you that would make sense.  With bigger players like Wal-Mart it is starting to happen. However, probably not fast enough for most Americans.  I’ll admit that I’m a rarity (outside of Boulder).  I will pay more for quality and healthy food for me and the health of our soil and people.
TRE: I often wonder when I would have discovered healthy food if I hadn’t read In Defense of Food. If you didn’t have problems with gluten, do you think you would have still discovered healthy food?
JM: Yes, I was headed that direction. First, by my love of eating. Second, my moving to Boulder.
TRE: You’ve lived here longer than I have, how much social pressure is there to eat healthy in Boulder?
JM: I don’t think any.  It’s a choice.  You can easily go to King Soopers and Safeway and shop as you like and many people do.  I think that the education of healthier food is prevalent in town by the number of Whole Foods, organic restaurants, juice bars, etc.  If you want it, it is there.  If you want to ignore it, that may be harder.
TRE: If you had to suggest one thing we could do (individually or collectively) to help the movement towards a better relationship with food, what would it be?
JM: Pay attention and read ingredient labels.  Seriously, try to read what goes into that processed food.  The less shoppers can understand on the food label, they will start to question it.  I got into the habit because of the food sensitivities, but every time I point out a label to someone, they stop and say, “…but I don’t even know what all this stuff is.  I thought these were crackers.” 
Exactly!
TRE: Thanks so much for chatting Jen. Any last words of advice and/or not-so-subtle self-promotion?
JM: Nah, I think I’ve said plenty.
I met Jen through her association with Naturally Boulder Days. Read my other posts about Naturally Boulder Days.

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Copyright 2009, The Reluctant Eater
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