Natural Foods Merchandiser

The next 30 years of naturals

What’s on tap for the natural and organic industry for the next few decades? Look for everything from flashier organic foods packaging to an explosion of inner-city natural foods stores, a group of experts predicted during the Thursday afternoon session “The Next 30 Years of Naturals.”

Panel members Sara Snow, TV host; Adam Ismail, executive director of the Global Organization for EPA and DHA omega-3s; Brahn Ahmadi, cofounder and executive director of the People’s Grocery; Shannon Swanson, cofounder and president of Tasty Brand; and Adam Anderson, show manager for Natural Products Expo West, forecasted the following trends:

  • As more organic and natural products hit the marketplace, packaging has to stand out more than ever. Traditional organic color schemes of beige and green, coupled with unimaginative graphics, won’t separate you from your competition. It’s also key that the packaging focuses on what’s in—and what’s not in—a product.

  • Look for more manufacturer rewards programs to encourage customers to be loyal to a product.

  • Simply engaging in social networking won’t be enough in the future—you have to differentiate yourself from the millions of other Twitterers and Facebookers. One effective, inexpensive way to do that is to connect with moms, who make most of the family food-buying decisions, by linking to mom-focused websites and mom-to-mom bloggers.

  • Take advantage of government incentives to build natural foods stores in inner cities. Studies show there is a demand for healthy food in these untapped markets, provided that it’s convenient to buy. But because land is hard to find and expensive in inner cities, it can take two to three times longer and cost 30 percent more to build stores in these markets. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Health and Human Services department are encouraging retailers to invest in these areas through programs like the Healthy Food Enterprise Development Center and the Community Food Project.

  • Children are the future of natural and organic products and sustainability efforts, but policies like sneaking vegetables into meals don’t encourage kids to recognize healthy food and ask for it. Parents, retailers and manufacturers have to educate children about whole foods to empower the next generation to be ambassadors for those products.

  • Walmart is here to stay. The retailing behemoth, along with Sam’s Club, Target and, are all attending Expo West.

  • There may never be standards for “natural” foods because there are so many different groups in the industry that have their own interests to serve. The greatest challenge over the next 30 years will be communicating what truly is natural and policing products that don’t comply.

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