ANAHEIM, CALIF. — The natural, organic and functional food industry has never been stronger, said Carlotta Mast, executive director of content for New Hope Network.
“Natural, organic and functional is still a relatively small piece of the pie, but it’s growing at a much faster rate than total food,” Ms. Mast said during a state-of-the-industry presentation at Natural Products Expo West, held March 10-13 in Anaheim. “I think this is reflected in our conventional grocery stores, the Krogers and Targets and Safeways of the world, where you’re seeing retailers taking space from conventional products and actually growing their natural, organic and functional sets because that’s where consumer demand is and where we’re seeing growth.”
Sales of natural and organic food and beverage products in the United States surged nearly 11% last year to $67.2 billion.
“In 2015, 57% of sales of natural and organic happened in the mass market channel, which is probably not surprising to you given the changes we’re seeing in the retail landscape,” Ms. Mast said. “This is creating challenges for our independent retailers who are facing an ever-competitive retail landscape, but overall for the industry, it has resulted in lot of growth for a lot of our brands.”
Products and values in the natural and organic channel are resonating with more mainstream consumers, said Eric Pierce, director of business insights for New Hope Network, during the presentation.
“What I see is continued strength in this industry," he said. “We see plenty of opportunities for the innovation and products and values and the things we represent as an industry to resonate for consumers who have always been here for us, the traditional health and wellness consumer, the specialty retail shopper. But we’re also seeing these ideas and values and statements we stand for as an industry connect with the mainstream consumer in more and more ways.”
A key theme behind a number of trends in product development displayed at Expo West is a back-to-basics approach to food.
“More and more consumers, as their trust in the products they buy wanes, are paying more attention, reading food labels and scrutinizing their purchases,” Ms. Mast said. “They’re looking for products that get back to a simpler way, a pre-industrialized food system that focuses on whole nutrient-dense ingredients and a closer-to-nature approach to processing.”