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What's NEXT? Food makers (finally) embrace vegetables

What's NEXT? Food makers (finally) embrace vegetables

Over the last several weeks, I have been deep into the research and writing for a product New Hope Natural Media and Sterling-Rice Group are launching next month called NEXT: The Natural Products Industry Forecast 2013. This paid research product provides a deep dive into the trends and market forces driving the natural products industry today and identifies the companies, products, people and ideas that will shape tomorrow’s natural products landscape.

Working on this research has been particularly fulfilling because our findings are proving that the natural products industry as a whole is on a very strong trajectory and, more important, that many of the trends fueling its growth have the ability to help solve some of the greatest health and nutrition problems facing the United States.

One such trend can be seen in the growing number of food manufacturers that are on a mission to help babies and young children to like and appreciate eating whole foods, particularly vegetables.

The reality is that many children today eat way too few veggies and know even less about their nutritional benefits. Remember those startling clips a few years back showing celebrity chef Jamie Oliver unsuccessfully quizzing kids about common vegetables? The good news, however, is that the assumption that kids—and even adults—won’t eat a product if it appears to contain vegetables or other healthy ingredients is finally losing credence. In fact, increasingly the very opposite is true.

Rather than sneaking nutrients into a product through veggie blends or added ingredients, a growing number of companies are embracing vegetables, fruits and legumes in their whole, real forms and repositioning them as snacks. Raw and freeze-dried processing support the creation of such products by enabling the typical snack characteristics that appeal to children and their parents alike. For instance, AppleSnapz’s fruit and vegetable crisps are made from real veggie and fruit slices that are dehydrated at a low temperature to help preserve the vitamins, antioxidants and enzymes of the raw ingredients. The result is also crunchy, delicious and addictive.

Another new company doing really cool things in this area is NurturMe, which makes a line of organic baby food that takes sustainability, nutrition density and packaging appeal to new heights. Launched by two moms, the award-winning NurturMe line features nutrient-rich, quick-dried fruits and veggies such as peas, sweet potatoes, squash, carrots, apples, and bananas. No jars. No squeeze packs. Just dehydrated whole foods targeted to specific age groups (from six months to toddlers). NurturMe is sold nationally through Babies "R" Us, as well as in select Whole Foods Markets and H-E-B Central Market stores.

I’ll be sharing more insights on what I’m learning from the NEXT Forecast work in coming weeks. In the meantime, you can learn more about the research and download the key findings from last year’s report at

I’d also love to hear about the trends and opportunities you believe will be most impactful for the natural products market in the next five years. Share a comment here or tweet them to #next4cast.

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