The Future of Natural Foods May Have Us Eating Crickets, Not Just Hearing Them.

A few Ketchum colleagues and I recently attended the 2015 Natural Products Expo East conference in Baltimore, Maryland. We saw firsthand that there is growing interest in naturals products, and how the once niche industry is evolving and growing. From companies that are just establishing their roots, to some of the biggest names in the space – including well-known food brands that are introducing organic lines for the first time – the conference was attended by a diverse group this year, all with messages about food.

How can brands be heard by the audiences they seek? Here are the top four trends that we identified for communicators from the expo:

Nutrients matter more than “healthy foods.”
Discussions in many of the sessions revolved around the nutrient density of the product rather than the individualized health benefits. As the organic space continues to grow, we expect increasing emphasis on how each company communicates nutrient density within its product portfolio.

Protein sources are expanding (and becoming more inventive!).
As the food industry continues the conversation around feeding the world’s growing population, it is exploring new protein sources. Even cricket-based foods are becoming more mainstream, serving as the foundation for yummy energy bars and baking flours. A bold future indeed!

Expansion is “on the move.”
Often, when we think of natural and organics, we think of whole foods, whole grains and, potentially, a whole lot of cooking! The next wave of natural and organic products, as exhibited at the show, will go beyond the organic gourmet and meet the growing needs of consumers who want on-the-go products by creating healthy alternatives to snack bars, frozen foods, spreads, jams, and juice drinks.

It’s not only about food – it’s about a lifestyle.
It would be easy to think that a natural and organic product expo would mainly focus on food and food ingredients – and it did. But other sectors – growing sectors – also competed for some serious floor space. These included a major commitment in natural beauty products, lifestyle products, supplements, and technology and restoration products and services. Think chair massage and natural mud masks.

Coming out of the conference, it is clear to us that the natural and organic food space is growing. We don’t expect it to be contained to special sections or aisles at the grocery stores much longer. Consumers should be on the lookout for organics and natural products across all parts of their supermarkets, sundry stores and big box outlets – and a ubiquitous place in our homes. Given these trends, communicators in the space should expect a more competitive landscape and will need to create meaningful content that breaks through to their target audience.