Crystal Ball Briefs: 2017 Product Trend Predictions for Natural and Organic Living

Crystal Ball Briefs: 2017 Product Trend Predictions for Natural and Organic Living

Source - Presence Marketing January 2017 Newsletter

Author - Steven Hoffman, Compass Natural Marketing

The New Year is a time for product trend predictions, and we've highlighted some of the 2017 trend pieces in natural and organic living that caught our eye, plus a few prognostications of our own. 

Whole Foods Market Predicts Top 2017 Product Trends

Whole Foods Market may have gone through some changes in 2016, but they remain a global leader and major market force in natural and organic products. So when the natural and organic grocer released in December its predictions for 2017's hottest food trends, compiled by experts who track consumer behavior at more than 400 of the chain's stores, it's worth taking notice. Among the retail giant's predictions: Wellness tonics, such as apple cider vinegar-based beverages and turmeric elixirs; coconut everything; creative condiments; alternative pastas made from quinoa, lentils, chickpeas, etc.; all foods purple, including purple asparagus, purple corn, acaí, elderberries and more; "Flexitarian" diets; "on-the-go" beauty care products; reducing food waste (manufacturers will use by-products to create other new products); oven-ready meal kits; and "mindful meal prep" using a mix of "make some/buy some" ingredients. 

InstaCart Predicts Explosive Growth for Non-Dairy, Gluten Free Foods

"2017 will usher in more delicious ways to ditch dairy," says InstaCart, which partners with retailers including Whole Foods Market, Costco, Publix and Andronico's to deliver groceries to customers. Reporting which products and brands saw the highest jump in searches in the past year, InstaCart noted a 222% increase in searches for non-dairy products such as yogurt, milk, coffee creamer and frozen desserts with a coconut, soy or almond base. Gluten free remains a top search term, as consumers continue to search for anything gluten free; and the paleo diet is becoming increasingly popular, reports InstaCart. 

Kids' Palates Are Expanding

Kids' palates are expanding beyond just cereal and candy, their interest in cooking is growing, and food companies are taking notice, says Innova Market Insights in its Top Ten Food Trends for 2017. Other predictions:  Transparency and cleaner formulations as consumers increasingly demand truth in labeling; personalized nutrition; plant-based dairy and meat alternatives, or what Innova calls "Disruptive Green." 

Sugary Shifts

With sugary drink taxes and "added sugar" labeling requirements under FDA's new labeling guidelines, manufacturers will make further strides in sweetener reduction, reports Todd Runestad of New Hope Network's Engredea in his 2017 trends piece. Additionally, "low sugar," "no added sugar" and "sugar free" label claims will rise. Among Todd's other predictions: probiotics and digestive health, with dietary supplement manufacturers marketing high potency probiotic strains, and bitters (herbal digestive aids) in the "what's old is new again" category; adaptogens for stress (e.g., ashwagandha, rhodiola, schisandra, ginseng, maca); vision supplements ("Our screens are making us blind," says Runestad); and "carbon-friendly" foods.

Insect Protein; "Responsible Fats"

New Hope Network's Senior Food Editor Jenna Blumenfeld in December outlined some promising predictions for food and beverage in 2017. For starters, the edible insect industry now has its own trade association, as does the newly formed Plant Based Foods Association. Among other trends:  Biodynamic and Regenerative Agriculture; herbal infusions; reducing food waste; drinkable soup; and "responsible fats," seen from a social, environmental and health perspective, such as coconut oil, sustainable palm oil, grass-fed butter and ghee. For example, a new group, Palm Done Right, promotes sustainable, organic production of palm oil and is seeking to change the story and destructive impact of industrial palm oil production.

Hemp and CBD Extracts - A Future in Natural Foods

As the world awakens to the benefits of consumer products made with phytocannabinoid hemp extracts rich in cannabidiol or CBD, traditional independent natural products retailers are seeing the most success as sellers of these products, with sales of CBD products up more than 1,700% in the past year, primarily from the natural channel, reports Hemp Business Journal in an article written by Steven Hoffman of Compass Natural. Manufacturers committed to quality, efficacy, sophisticated marketing, and strict compliance under the Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act (DSHEA) stand to benefit from this emerging botanical category, too. Most are taking a wait and see approach as Big Pharma and the Feds challenge the consumer market for CBD products. However, the law does not prohibit the sale of consumer products made with CBD from hemp, says the , and while caution is urged, the natural living market stands to be among the first to benefit from growing interest in CBD products as prohibition of hemp and cannabis ends in the U.S. 

Organic Under Trump - How Concerned Should We Be?

"The truth is that we have absolutely no idea what to expect" under Trump, writes Max Goldberg in Living Maxwell. Goldberg is also publisher of the new subscriber-based Organic Insider (https://insider.organic). "It could be favorable, especially if Ivanka gets personally involved, or it could be a complete disaster," he says, noting in his Organic Insider 2017 trends newsletter that Ivanka Trump eats healthy, organic food, and she has expressed concern for climate change (Ivanka also was instrumental in inviting Al Gore to meet with President-elect Trump). But, adds Goldberg, whatever Trump does, "it will not be worse than President Obama. While many assume Obama has been a friend to organic," Goldberg points out that Obama signed the GMO-labeling "DARK Act" into law and his administration has approved "every single genetically modified crop that has been applied for" under his administration.

GMO Labeling Transparency

On July 29, 2016, President Obama signed the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard into law. This federal law requires the labeling of foods containing GMOs, forming a nationwide standard and preempting all previous and future state-level GMO labeling laws. The law offers manufacturers the option to label for GMOs with a QR code, scannable by a Smart Phone app that then guides the consumer to a company website with GMO disclosure information, or a toll free number a consumer can call. Plain English disclosure on the product label now becomes a voluntary option. As a result of the new law, dubbed the DARK Act by GMO labeling advocates because of its lack of outright consumer transparency, USDA has taken over administration of GMO labeling from FDA, and it has two years to create a national mandatory disclosure standard. But questions remain. "For instance, even though the law directly states genetically engineered ingredients that are commercially grown—such as canola, corn, soy and sugar beets—are required to be labeled, it has yet to state whether food made from these products (i.e., canola oil and high-fructose corn syrup) will be required as well," writes nutrition industry executive George Pontiakos in Natural Products Insider in December 2016. Will new GMO technologies such as CRISPR and gene editing be included under the new disclosure standards? In related news, Whole Foods Market has revised its GMO transparency policy requiring product manufacturers to disclose GMO ingredients by September 2018. See A.C. Gallo's October 2016 progress update here.

Americans Don't Trust Scientists About Food

A lot of Americans don't care what scientists think about GMOs and food, and a deep cynicism about the motives of scientists in the GMO/non-GMO debate is growing, reported the Pew Research Center in December 2016 in a 99-page report on consumers' attitudes toward GMOs, organic food and the importance of eating healthfully. While many mainstream media reports indicate that there is no evidence proving GMOs are unsafe, Pew's survey discovered that 39% of Americans believe that genetically modified foods are worse for your health that non-GMO food. Roughly equal shares of Republicans and Democrats (39% vs. 40%) feel that GMOs are worse for people's health. More Democrats than Republicans (60% vs. 50%) believe that organic foods are healthier, a significant, but not a huge difference, reports NPR. The survey also didn't find any major differences between men and women, or between rich and poor, when it came to views about GMOs or about the healthy qualities of organic food. The wealthy, however, were more likely actually to buy organic food regularly. One overwhelming consensus point: 72% of Americans believe that healthy eating habits are very important in improving one's chances of a long and healthy life. According to the survey, Americans feel that scientific research findings are influenced in equal measure by the following factors: the best available scientific evidence; desire to help their industries; and desire to advance their careers. In the view of the public, all of those factors are more important to scientists than concern for the public interest, the Pew Research Center reported.

Climate Change and Organic: The Solution is Under Our Feet

As a handful of leading companies, producers and organizations embrace the concept that soil carbon sequestration can reverse climate change, look toward "Organic 3.0." Coined by IFOAM Organics International, Organic 3.0 builds on the concept of Regenerative Agriculture, promoted by Rodale Institute and others, in which we can draw carbon out of the atmosphere – where it is causing global warming – and put it back into healthy organic soils, grasslands, forests, urban landscapes and elsewhere. We knew organic was great for reducing environmental and dietary exposure to toxic pesticides, but now we also know that by building healthy organic soil, we can literally feed the world...and cool the planet! Biodynamic agriculture, too, promotes very similar concepts and is a rising star among consumers and natural products retailers. Learn more at www.RegenerationInternational.org and http://www.RodaleInstitute.org, www.TheCarbonUnderground.org and at Delicious Living.

Organic Rules: Animal Welfare, Hydroponics, Animal Welfare in the Spotlight

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) at its November meeting voted to ban the ubiquitous and controversial ingredient carrageenan from organic foods. While the industry is fighting back, we will see reformulations of many products, based on this new proposed rule. Additionally, NOSB voted to ban new GMO technologies from being approved under Certified Organic, including gene editing, CRISPR-Cas9, mutagenesis, nanotechnology, synthetic biology, and others. Postponed until the Spring 2017 meeting is the consideration of hydroponics, currently allowed in Certified Organic production in the U.S. Expect the debate about the role of soil and hydroponics in organic vegetable production to continue well into 2017. Additionally, proposed animal welfare rules in Certified Organic, primarily for providing additional space for humane poultry and livestock production, while passed by NOSB in April 2016, may not be finalized before President Obama leaves office, "leaving open the possibility that they may never go into effect," reports Luke Runyon of Harvest Public Media in December. The Organic Trade Association says the updates to animal welfare regulations are necessary to keep the organic label from being watered down. These rules, says OTA, should prevent producers from looking to the organic seal as a way to charge a premium for meat and animal products without making changes to their conventional farming practices, reports Runyon. 

Investing To Grow in Natural, Organic and Healthy Lifestyles

With the launch of a number of private equity funds dedicated to investing in emerging natural and organic producers and brands, including BIGR Ventures, Sunrise Strategic Partners, Iroquois Valley Farms (investing in organic farmland) and others; mission-based micro-investing organizations including RSF Social Finance, Slow Money and others; plus "Kickstarter-style" crowd-funding platforms such as Barnraiser, founded by food and tech veteran Eileen Gordon Chiarello and focused on investing in artisanal food producers, not to mention Whole Foods Market's Local Producer Loan Program, start-ups and emerging companies can look to a number of sources for the capital needed to grow. As the natural and organic market continues to grow at double-digit pace into 2017, expect M&A and investment activity to remain hot. Follow the financial news at Nutrition Capital Network

Seeds Go Open Source:  Around the world, plant breeders are resisting what they see as corporate control of the food supply by making seeds available for other breeders to use, reports leading environmental news source Ensia. The Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI), inspired by "the free and open source software movement," was created to ensure that some plant varieties and genes remain free from intellectual property rights and available for all plant breeders in perpetuity. As part of the initiative, U.S. breeders can take a pledge that commits the seeds they produce to remain available for others to use for breeding in the future. That doesn't mean they can't build a business with or sell them. What the pledge does is allow farmers who buy seeds from an open-source breeder to cross them with other material to breed their own varieties and save them for future seasons — two things many crop patents forbid. Dozens of breeders and seed companies have pledged since OSSI launched in 2014.

Steven Hoffman is Managing Director of Compass Natural, providing brand marketing, PR, social media, and strategic business development services to natural, organic and sustainable products businesses. Contact steve@compassnatural.com.