The biggest news from the Natural Product Expo 2016 was that the sale of healthy foods is now mainstream. A record 43% of Americans now say they make their food and beverage purchases using the criteria of human and environmental health. Healthier food is on the threshold of being what the majority of Americans eat.
Mass retailers selling healthy foods is now a mega trend
The sale of healthier food and beverages has achieved mega trend status in less than a decade. Costco is now the largest retailer of organic food. 7-Eleven, the purveyor of Big Gulp sodas, launched a healthy food line in 2014! From Walmart to Kroger the retail industry is now mainstreaming the sale of healthier foods.
Consumers are driving this mega trend. They are demanding healthier food at record levels. Natural and organic foods won over 10% sales growth in 2015 at a time when our economy was achieving only a 2% annual growth rate.
Sell more PLUS charge more!
Retailers are learning that they can charge more for sustainably sourced healthier foods. One in three consumers are willing to pay 10% more for foods that are:
- Produced by paying fair wages and in safe working conditions
- Produced without an environmental footprint that contributes to global warming.
Retailers and food manufacturers still failing to align with consumers
For all the sales success retailers and food manufacturers are achieving, they still lag in meeting a growing consumer expectation for healthier food that is grown sustainably. A stunning 75% of consumers believe food manufacturers are more focused on profits than human health. Only approximately one-third of consumers believe food manufacturers have a human health focus.
Consumers want foods and beverages with less:
- Artificial ingredients and coloring
- Artificial sweeteners and flavors
- Genetically modified foods or ingredients.
Consumers want to buy foods and beverages that have these three key attributes:
- Mission based. Consumers want their purchases to contribute toward a greater good. 37% of consumers are more likely to buy from companies who donate to worthwhile causes.
- Repurposing of ingredients. Consumers want less food waste. They want to see food waste to be repurposed rather than tossed in a landfill where it will then decay into global warming methane gas.
- Ethical and sustainable production. Consumers are gravitating toward grass feed beef. They are exploring plant based foods as an alternative to meats that have issues tied to animal cruelty and climate changing emissions. They seek humanely grown foods like eggs harvested from uncaged chickens. Driving this attribute is the 56% of consumers who feel personally responsible for protecting the environment and 52% of consumers who wish they could do more.
Will the consumer shift to healthier food solve America’s health crisis?
Is the cup half full or half empty regarding the consumer shift toward healthier food? It is hugely encouraging that healthier food and beverages are achieving mainstream sales levels. Americans are buying healthier foods at a faster growth rate than industrial food.
The challenge is that America is in a weight crisis. This crisis threatens to bankrupt Medicare from a boomer generation seeking pills and medical care to mitigate their obesity and diabetes epidemic. 50% of Generation Z, the first generation born in the 21st Century, is projected to be obese during their lifetime. A healthier food culture’s higher growth rate may not be fast enough to keep America from plunging over a health cliff that will create significant levels of human and financial pain.
When this happens (it is no longer a question of “if” due to the size of the problem) the question the food and beverage industry must confront is “who will Americans blame?” Will consumers look at themselves or will they point the finger at an industry where 75% of consumers feel companies are emphasizing profits over health?
To the food and beverage industry’s credit they are trying to align with consumers. But their efforts are incremental compared to the disruptive improvements required to prevent a health catastrophe. The Coca Cola Company maybe offering smaller 8 ounce soda bottles but they still measure themselves on growing soda sales even with the increased evidence that soda consumption is a huge reason why America is in a weight crisis. Kraft, Taco Bell, General Mills and Campbell Soups should be recognized for taking steps to decrease the amount of artificial ingredients in their foods. But there is growing evidence that consumers are ignoring this incremental progress and are instead avoiding grocery stores, fast food restaurants and industrially produced foods as a best practice for losing weight.
With a record 70,000 in attendance, the Natural Product Expo West is an encouraging demonstration of a food and beverage industry pushing itself toward meaningful change. The consumer’s question is whether food/beverage companies can be trusted to deliver the price competitive, tasty and good for you products needed to solve a national weight crisis threatening America’s health and health care costs?
About the author
Bill Roth is the author of The Boomer Generation Diet, now on sale at Amazon! Here’s what Jen Boynton, Editor in Chief of Triple Pundit says about the book: ”Written in Bill Roth’s lovable, relatable tone. The Boomer Generation Diet is a must-read for any Boomer who is looking to jumpstart their health and have fun at the same time. I hope my parents read it!” Follow Bill on Twitter and Facebook.