FWD 2 HerbalGram: Meet ABC Board Member Morris Shriftman: Groundbreaking Marketer for the Natural and Organic Industries

Issue: 83 Page: 14-15

Meet ABC Board Member Morris Shriftman: Groundbreaking Marketer for the Natural and Organic Industries

by Lindsay Stafford Mader

HerbalGram. 2009;83:14-15 American Botanical Council

Deep in thought, often with opera or Spanish music filling his ears, Morris “Mo” Shriftman tackles marketing projects as an artist with a blank canvas. Using his creative mind, Shriftman creates visually-stimulating graphics and innovative marketing campaigns that truthfully inform the public about the virtues of natural and organic companies and their products.

“I decided to focus on these industries because it has been my most satisfying work,” said Shriftman (oral communication, April 14, 2009). “It is nice, as a marketing guy, not to have to lie in order to build brands for my clients.”

Shriftman’s 3-decade long career in marketing for the “natural space” has been characterized by his artistic approach to effecting positive change. By building upon client companies’ sense of purpose, purity of ingredients, product differentiation, or their higher mission of social importance, his work has helped establish many brands as industry staples, such as Horizon Organic Dairy (Boulder, CO) and Traditional Medicinals (Sebastopol, CA).1,2 He is also the CEO of marketing communications firm Mozart, Inc., which specializes in natural and organic products and herbal and alternative medicine.

Doug Greene, founder of New Hope Natural Media, has known and worked with Shriftman for 30 years. Greene said that Shriftman does not approach marketing from a “market manipulation point of view—he comes at it from a service and social justice point of view” (oral communication, May 11, 2009).

Shriftman became involved with his first natural products client, Tree of Life, during the early 1970s, when the company was still a small neighborhood grocery store.3 Shriftman helped turn Tree of Life into a major retail brand and successful distributor of natural and organic products by creating retailer-oriented programs and by launching the company’s new image with the creation of a logo, catalogs, and marketing literature.4

Recalling the bright green blurred tree insignia that Shriftman created for Tree of Life, Greene said that Shriftman profoundly influenced packaging for the entire natural products industry, taking it from “brown, crunchy, granola” to vibrant quality graphics.

“Morris has been one of the key marketing influences in this business for as long as I can remember. He’s one of the few true artists in our business. Art is at the core of everything he does,” said Greene.

Working with Whole Foods Market (Austin, TX) in the 1980s and 1990s, Shriftman helped the company open a dozen new stores with a direct mail video campaign, which gave Whole Foods name recognition in untapped communities.5 He later created team member orientation videos, which Peter Roy, former president of Whole Foods, said were instrumental in orienting new team members on the culture, history, and expectations of the company (oral communication, April 21, 2009).

“The videos were very effective, used for many years, and were eventually re-edited to become an investor presentation,” Roy said.

Quite possibly the most groundbreaking point of Shriftman’s career has been his time as senior vice president of marketing for Avalon Natural Products. There he helped build the company’s brands, including Avalon Organics and Alba, into major lines. He further created the Consciousness in Cosmetics campaign, a platform for personal care products based on the absence of “objectionable ingredients.”6

Shriftman wanted to encourage consumers to think more deeply about what they put onto their skin, so he helped create the campaign to guide the creation and reformation of all Avalon Organics products by focusing on the elimination of ingredients such as parabens, petro-chemical based ingredients, sulfates, and any animal-based ingredients, while instead promoting the use of organic botanicals and oils and on ensuring non-animal testing.

Shriftman’s initial desire to remove potentially toxic ingredients from Avalon’s products was spurred when the European Union banned about 1,100 potentially harmful chemicals from cosmetics and body care products in 2003.7 The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), meanwhile, has only banned 11 ingredients from cosmetic products.8

“That was a real eye-opener for me,” said Shriftman.

“Many at Avalon worked hard to make this change, but Morris led the way by conceptualizing and driving the campaign,” said Gil Pritchard, former president of Avalon Natural Products (oral communication, April 16, 2009). “Shriftman initially encountered criticism and hesitation from within the natural products industry. But he all the while remembered that we were doing the right thing.

“[The campaign] is a legacy. And quite frankly, we owe it to Morris. It ultimately changed the ingredient structure of health and beauty aids sold as natural products.”

Similarly, Mo has been an invaluable asset to the American Botanical Council (ABC) Board of Trustees, said ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal.

“His artistic talents permeate his every word. Mo speaks in such an eloquent way that it’s almost like listening to poetry. He has a phenomenally broad sense of vision and heart, and these qualities have helped propel and expand ABC’s sense of our role in changing our culture to be more accepting of natural medicine,” said Blumenthal.

Despite his years of experience and success in the field, Shriftman didn’t initially plan on a marketing career. He received his bachelor’s degree in labor relations from Cornell University, then attended law school for a year before deciding that it was not for him. He went on to earn his master’s degree in British and American literature from New York University and completed all the exams and coursework required for his doctorate. Prior to beginning his dissertation, however, he landed a job writing TV commercials and print ads, where he developed a sense of what marketing was about and began to make more money than many of his professors. This led Shriftman to create his own graphic design company, Century Expanded, which worked with companies like the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) and Dow Jones. Century Expanded eventually became involved with Tree of Life, and since then, Shriftman has not left the “natural space.”

“There’s a lot of love in this industry, and that feels good,” Shriftman said, noting that the natural and organic industries have a sense of compassion and caring that he has not encountered elsewhere.

Aside from marketing, Shriftman enjoys numerous activities, including yoga, painting, playing music, and traveling. Longtime friend Greene recalled that Shriftman is also a fantastic whistler (especially to Van Morrison tunes), and Pritchard noted his great sense of humor.

“There aren’t many dull dinner conversations when Morris is around,” said Pritchard.

Greene added that Shriftman is also a “phenomenal” father of 2 daughters and a son, as well as a very loyal and generous friend. “As good as [Morris] is at marketing, he’s also just as good at the art of friendship.”

—Lindsay Stafford


  1. Horizon Organic Dairy. Mozart, Inc. Web site. Available at: http:// www.mozartinc.com/. Accessed April 20, 2009
  2. Traditional Medicinals: the natural pharmacy of plants. Mozart, Inc. Web site. Available at: http://www.mozartinc.com/. Accessed April 20, 2009.
  3. About Us. Tree of Life Web site. Available at: http://www.treeoflife.com/MainCategoryTemplate.aspx?ParentCategoryId=5. Accessed April 21, 2009.
  4. Health Sciences Group adds prominent industry leader to its management team; Morris Shriftman to lead marketing effort for product launch initiatives [press release]. Los Angeles, CA: Health Sciences Group, Inc.; November 10, 2003.
  5. Whole Foods. Mozart, Inc. Web site. Available at: http://www. mozartinc.com/. Accessed April 20, 2009.
  6. Five Elements of Consciousness. Avalon Organics Web site. Available at: http://avalonorganics.com/?id=30. Accessed May 11, 2009.
  7. Directive 2003/15/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of February 27, 2003 amending Council Directive 76/768/EEC on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to cosmetic products. Official Journal of the European Union. 2003;11(3);26-35.
  8. Electronic Code of Federal Regulations: Title 21: Food and Drugs, Part 700–General, Subpart B—Requirements for Specific Cosmetic Products. Available at: http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr;rgn =div6;view=text;node=21%3A7.;idno=21;sid=11932eedf179 169919a4f92bf2ebd207;cc=ecfr. Accessed May 11, 2009.