Opinion: Spring Cleaning

Sometimes you just need to start a fire

For a while I just stood back and stared at it.

Its reedy tentacles reached up to the cold Chicago clouds. Its woody roots dug deep into the ground, under the fence, under the garage, under the cement in the alley.

The trumpet vine—aka Campsis radicans, aka trumpet creeper, aka huge pain in the a$$—was pulling my fence apart. It eased a piece of siding off my garage to wind itself around an old bike trailer inside and swallow up an old basketball pump discarded next to the wall.

When I saw it reaching for my lawn mower, I decided it was time to take care of business.

So I started a fire.

It was nice and hot when I added the first bunch of dried, brown springtime vines. The airy off shoots were simple to pull down, but the main roots gave me some trouble. So I grabbed a wire cutter. It came down easily after that.

In all, it took three hours to cut and burn much of the dried vine. We used the fire to pop corn for an afternoon snack, cook hot dogs for dinner and roast marshmallows for dessert. I saved some of the biggest tangles to dry; they’ll be perfect for kindling later this summer.

I’m under no illusion that I’m done with that vine. I will be trimming it back until the day we move out. That vine could survive a Great Chicago Fire 2.0, a new ice age, a nuclear winter.

Nature is amazing. I marvel every year when the first plant pops up through a layer of frost, or a purple violet grows from the smallest crack in the sidewalk. It’s incredible that a bunch of beets or carrots can grow from seeds as tiny as a bit of sand. It’s crazy (in all senses of the word) that a vine with such beautiful orange flowers could pull the siding off a garage, plank by plank.

It’s only, well, natural that we bring you this issue as the grass is peeking out of the soil and the trumpet vine begins its next cycle of plunder. Natural products are the springtime of your sets. They represent innovation and change. They represent a need for balance—in this case between those indulgent core products your customers love and the natural better-for-you ones they need.

Your customers think nature is amazing, too. And they’re investing a lot of time and effort (and money) to find it in everything from bottles of water to candy bars.

For our cover story ­(p. 14), we partnered with SPINS, a Chicago-based provider of retail consumer insights, analytics and consulting for the natural, organic and specialty products industries, to bring you 30 brands that are driving growth across conventional retail channels. We focused on candy, snacks and beverages and identified some stalwart products, as well as some lesser-known up-and-comers.

In the c-store industry, we’ve always danced with the ratio of new, innovative products to core, tried-and-true offerings. Increasingly, that innovative piece is coming from the natural and organic world. So, as you consider your own spring cleaning efforts, strike the match of innovation in your sets.

And start that fire.

Abbey Lewis is editor in chief of Convenience Store Products. Reach her at alewis@winsightmedia.com.