The NEXT Innovation Summit debuted at Expo West this year with a pivot -- in tone and audience -- to better address the industry dynamics of natural products more broadly. In the opening keynote, editors from Nutrition Business Journal and Functional Ingredients laid out a "new consumer binary" shaping trends and product innovation throughout the industry. Here are a few highlights, and click the button below for a full download of the slides.
4 faces, 1 voice
The energy in natural products seems to come from surprising places these days. Consider Josh Tetrick at Hampton Creek Foods, replacing the battery-caged egg in our food supply with plant proteins. Or Jessica Richman at uBiome, charting a path toward citizen-led science. Or Ron Finley and his "gangster gardening" movement. Or Larry Smarr on the bleeding edge of the quantified self movement. All of these faces bring fresh voices of change directly into the natural products industry. They also bring new skill skets and fresh thinking about how to affect that change.
Food reform is just the tip of the iceberg. Disruption is flourishing across the social fabrics we all enjoy. To live in the 21st century is to live in a time of uncertainty, groundlessness, and a real hunger for systems approaches that unpack the problems hanging over us as a culture -- climate change, diabesity, decreasing standards of living and life expectancies. How does this manifest in food? GMO for one. It's the food villain that just won't go away.
What will you give up?
Natural, local, alternative, organic, fair, small ... all of these resonate so well with consumers because the conventional choices are no longer attractive. Our challenges are daunting, even depressing. What are you willing to give up?
Unpacking conventional wisdom brings lots of hallowed truths back into play -- cholesterol as killer, multivitamins as saviour -- and introduces new ones like inflammation as a systemic scourge to health and nutrient density as the real play for healthy food, regardless of its delivery format.
So what becomes of the old approach to product development? Do the distinctions between, say, organic yogurt, functional foods and dietary supplements still apply? Is there any space left in the consumer psyche for these three distinct propositions?
Maybe not. Maybe there's pressure at the edges forcing the industry into a new consumer binary wherein natural & organic gets a little closer to functional by baking in nutrient-dense ingredients ... call them "naturally functional." Supplements also cozy up to food by moving away from pills and embracing natural, organic, and nutrient-dense formulations. The advance of plant proteins and whole-food supplements are just two examples of the move in market.
The bright minds at Functional Ingredients closed out the presentation with some specific ingredient call-outs. Here's a peek inside the editor's mind for where not to focus your attention going forward.
And here's the view from the roller coaster, as the people's doctor continues to send ripples throughout nutrition's supply chain. Which of these star ingredients can stand the test of time?
Or you can skip the roller coaster. How about these ingredients instead? Behold a Top 10 list of ingredients destined to change the world as they work their way through those systems in heady flux, from innovation and product development to PR and cultural acceptance. These are the star performers in nutrition's future.