Consumers continue to look to the natural products industry to give them unique foods. Pure and "natural" have always been mainstays of the industry, but such designations have come under attack lately. Lawsuits and reports from watchdog groups have highlighted issues that have never been fully addressed.
Consumer expectation has increased and "natural" now does need to mean non-GMO—foods so labeled form one of the fastest growing categories. However, without a broadly accepted definition for natural, companies are removing the term from packages so that they are not targets of lawsuits.
Other monikers such as "artisan" have been misused by marketers. While true artisanal foods will continue to grow as a category, retailers and consumers are becoming more savvy as to what is truly artisanal and authentically produced. Retailers would do well to look carefully at which products they carry with the artisanal label.
Finally, the march toward local foods is continuing and the next trend will be more processed foods that carry a local label. Farmers' markets and local produce have become well-established in stores. It is becoming apparent that a true local food system must include food processing. Seasonally-produced local foods may be canned, frozen or processed further to extend the season. As well, they provide a diversified product base for farmers beyond local farmers' markets and direct to consumer sales.
Mary Mulry, PhD, runs FoodWise, Inc., a consulting firm dedicated to the creation and marketing of high quality organic foods.