Editorial: Mainstreaming Gives Industry an Ambassador Opportunity

By Len Monheit

Over the past several years, one can argue that the phenomenon of ‘mainstreaming’ has become an inherent force within our industry. With box retailers embracing supplements and organic products, with natural personal care making serious inroads into spa and beauty products on their way to supermarket visibility, mainstreaming of our ‘natural’ world has provided industry with the opportunity to be the ambassador of a new age, providing culture and values could be maintained in the market along the way. And industry had to embrace the concept, as abdicating the field meant that there was no chance for the core substance and identity of the sector to be preserved in any meaningful fashion. We had to (have to) be the conduit for education and standards, and choosing not to play means losing the ability to effectively critique the outcome later.

The Natural Products Association pretty much got it right with their program to define and certify the term ‘natural’ as it relates to personal care products. By getting into the game with this program, the association ensures it is a key stakeholder as mainstreaming continues. In selected other sectors, the jury is still out as to what role industry will play as the categories continue to grow and proliferate.

In ‘CPG-world’, providing healthier solutions has become in recent years a regular cause célèbre. Whether it’s free from, lesser evil, natural, alternative, sustainable, free/fair trade, a world that used to belong solely on an Expo show floor or only in a natural foods retail environment is now the stuff of mass merchandising and mainstream message bombardment.

We shouldn’t be surprised.

As an industry, we were way ahead of the game and like any early adaptor, we shouldn’t be surprised when the ‘rest’ catch up. We shouldn’t be enthralled however, at the prospect of losing that vital connection to ‘direction’ as the ‘healthier environment evolves and matures. Let’s face it – in many respects, in addition to Walmart and Costco, Coke, Pepsi and Kraft are in our world now – in a huge way, validating our concepts and value proposition. And now, more than ever, we must redouble our efforts to be the communicators and educators, the entity that establishes value moving forward for successive generations – of products and consumers.

With this in mind, a pitch, if you will……

Next month, New Hope Natural Media’s Global Supply Products Portfolio will present The Healthy Foods Conference in Boston (www.healthyfoodsconference.com ). At the end of this week, conference registration for what promises to be absolutely cutting edge concepts, discussion and networking goes from $595 to $695.

With interaction as a major driver, the conference has added a supreme networking event – the HFC Progressive Dinner, an opportunity to for table sponsors to meet and network with up to 36 attendees over a four-course dinner. Registrants themselves get to interact with table hosts and their peers in what promises to be a fun and entertaining evening. Another new program is “Speed Data”, involving a pre-scheduled, one-on one education and information session with an expert in one of seven areas: Marketing, Innovative Ingredients, Beverages, Packaging, Regulations, Flavoring and Trends.

The line up of speakers for this event is truly a champion’s roll-call with presentations from Kashi, Honest Tea, Starbucks, Izze, Mix 1, Ocean Spray, Organic Bistro and many more. The conference will, from an industry to mainstream approach, take an in-depth look at the trends in healthy foods and a leaders panel will discuss what we will be eating and drinking in 2020. Cutting edge information on gluten-free, kids’ health and healthy starches rounds out an amazing program.

The event is intended specifically for brand marketers, ingredient companies and product developers in the consumer packaged goods arena to meet, network, identify the newest foods and ingredients.

As these products and their messaging becomes more mainstream, it is more important than ever that we track carefully, contribute to the next evolution of our industry, and plan our business and investments accordingly. For inside intelligence, the Healthy Foods Conference and its insights might just be the edge needed.

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