In a session located in a ballroom above the madness of the Natural Products Expo West show floor, representatives of Nutrition Business Journal and NewHope360.com discussed the trends shaping the natural products industry in 2010 and thus far into 2011. NBJ's Publisher and Editorial Director, Patrick Rea; Newhope360.com's Editor-in-Chief, Carlotta Mast; and New Hope Natural Media's vice president of business development, Dave Kingsbury, all spoke to the challenges and successes of the last year and expounded on new market and consumer trends. These are the key takeaways of the State of the Industry session.
- The new trends are the old trends: The year 2009 was a time marked by hesitancy and economically-motivated fear, and put a remarkable damper on product innovation in the natural products space. As the recession has begun roll over, consumers are now returning to the lifestyle and product choices they had grown familiar with a few years ago. Trends like raw, gluten-free and allergen-free still reign in the food space, while the anti-aging category continues to grow in natural & organic personal care and supplements. Retailer initiatives for nutrition rating programs remain in vogue, especially with Whole Foods' 2010 rollout of its ANDI nutrient density rating system.
- The Hispanic market needs healthy brands: Already numbering over 50 million people (more than the population of Canada) the United States' Hispanic population is a growing force with an apparent demand for healthy products. To two prevalent U.S. health conundrums—diabetes and obesity—Hispanics are especially susceptible. And though Hispanic consumers tend to be especially brand loyal—much like natural products consumer in general—very few healthy foods have branding that is friendly or vetted toward Hispanic communities.
- M&A is back on track: Following a year of fairly stagnant acquisition activity, the financial market has warmed up in 2010 and 2011, and in a variety of sectors. Notable acquisitions include Glanbia's purchase of BSN for $144 million, Caltius Equity Partners' investment in Kiss My Face, Diamond Foods' purchase of Kettle Foods, KeHE's acquisition of Tree of Life, and, of course, Carlyle's $4 billion dollar purchase of supplement giant NBTY.
- Transparency, transparency, transparency: Consumers have the power these days. Bad news goes viral in seconds. Social media and technology have opened up new forums for consumers to discuss and debate controversial topics in food and personal care, like GMO and chemical ingredients. Transparency is key for corporations looking to appeal to the new educated, vocal consumer. Transparency in manufacturing, in formulations, in marketing; it denotes respect to consumers and fosters respect among them.