18 December 2015
By Tetra Pak Editorial Team
Want to see a healthy increase in your sales? Add natural and/or healthy foods and beverages to your product mix. Sales in this category, according to Packaged Facts, are expected to exceed $78 billion by 2015 and reach $226 billion by 2018, according to New Hope Natural Media, the organizer of Natural Products Expo West.

For an idea of how fast this arena is growing, consider this: The category’s sales were only $39 billion in 2010, and next year’s sales are expected to almost double by 2015. In contrast, the entire food and beverage market is projected to show a 4.5 percent annual sales to total about $668 billion, up from 2013’s sales of $639 billion, notes Packaged Facts.

Given such a quickly escalating growth rate, it’s clear that healthy and natural foods are firmly in fashion.

What This Means for Food and Beverage Makers

The food industry’s revenue growth is being driven by this consumer mega-shift, notes TriplePundit sustainability blogger Bill Roth using the show as substantiation. From a once-niche event, it has grown to become “one of the most heavily attended events… across industries,” he reports.

In fact, the numbers at 2014 Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, California, amounted to its biggest crowd yet, with 67,000 attendees, 2,600 exhibitors and the most first-time exhibitors (635) in its history.

And hard-hitting seminars played to market potential of the category, such as how to drive health and wellness in the grocery aisles; what’s the value of product-specific data for ROI; and how to cater to specialty diets. And the number and nature of the products and services offered at the Expo show healthy and natural foods and beverages have leaped from a niche to a revenue growth engine for the food processing industry.

How to Leverage the Healthy and Natural Foods Trend

That’s the industry’s current $64 million question. Lessons learned from Tetra Pak customers at Natural Products Expo West make it clear that health-conscious consumers look for certain characteristics when they evaluate whether a product addresses their health and sustainability concerns. Among these are convenience, accessibility, labeling transparency and their own particular diet considerations.

With these factors in mind, manufacturers and brands should take note of these features when formulating new healthy and natural foods and beverages, including:
  1. Organic, Natural and Non-GMO. After a decline during the last recession, organic food sales are growing at 10 percent annually again, according to Roth. With this awareness, at least one session at the Expo featured a panel discussion on organic and non-genetically modified organisms with a focus on labeling and production. Still, another source states that in the long run, consumers are more concerned about purity, or naturalness, than about organic. Many products labeled organic feature ingredient-rich formulations, which may turn consumers off, according to QSR Magazine. To address both sides of the issue, manufacturers should focus on simple recipes with fewer ingredients.
  2. Openness. Consumers want to know exactly what they are putting in their bodies. They want to easily understand what went into the manufacture of what they are eating or drinking. When they read ingredient names they don’t understand, they are turned off. They want food and beverage makers to clearly communicate regarding their processes and ingredients. FDA supports this too, as evidenced by the agency’s recent proposal for new Nutrition Facts labels.
  3. Variety. With a greater awareness of food allergies and sensitivities, the Millennial generation and mothers regularly seek alternatives to dairy, including rice, almond and soy milks. Also, while gluten-free may be trendy these days, for some consumers, avoiding gluten is critical thanks to health issues and nearly 30 percent of all consumers purchase items that lack gluten, notes Roth. Taking all this into account, diverse new options can drive higher sales.
  4. Packaging. It’s important to use packaging that embraces healthy and natural values. Food and beverage companies in attendance at Natural Products Expo West chose options that best displayed and protected their products, as well as conveyed sustainability to consumers. In many instances, the carton was the container of choice because it accomplished food and beverage producers’’ goals—as several brands explain in this video.

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