BOULDER, COLO. — Topping the list of natural food trends are superherbs, artisanal alternatives and sustainable packaging. The Sterling-Rice Group, a Boulder-based consulting firm, collected expertise from food industry experts, publications and trade shows to identify nine emerging trends within the segment.

“We already have a gluten-free or vegan or extra healthful version of pretty much everything, and we have a drink for every function, and so it’s within this context of a pretty developed market that it’s exciting to see still some new things coming out,” Kara Nielsen, culinary director at Sterling-Rice Group, told Food Business News. “A lot of it is all somewhat familiar, so you have to look a little harder to recognize what’s new and different. We’re not going to see many earth-shaking things; it’s more these subtle shifts and maturations by category and topic.”

Products launching in the natural channel offer new and revitalized sources of daily nutrition and ingredients linked with stress management and disease prevention.

“We’re also seeing free-from foods are getting tastier and a little more artisan,” Ms. Nielsen said. “They’re using more real food ingredients and less hyper-processed ones.”

As natural and organic products move further into the mainstream, these trends are more relevant than ever to the food and beverage industry as a whole, Ms. Nielsen said.

“The natural market space isn’t only the natural channel but also has a considerable and growing footprint in the conventional grocery channel as well,” she said. “I do expect we will see these continue to grow in both of those two channels, although probably within the natural aisle in conventional.”

Click for a slideshow of top trends in natural and organic foods.