I recently attended the Natural Food Products Expo West, held March 8-12 in Anaheim. The expo focused on the natural and organic food industry, which still has a relatively small market share. However, this market niche is growing at a swift rate that exceeds the food industry growth as a whole.
I saw a trend toward showcasing natural foods in the large supermarket chains, with decreases in shelf space for more conventional products. Consumers are demanding it, and I was impressed with the large number of products that are geared toward consumers looking for healthier food choices.
I had anticipated there to be more emphasis on sustainability, but innovation was a major theme of this year’s convention. It was clear that businesses are developing products aimed at gaining an industry foothold. I saw a number of new and innovative products at the Expo’s booths. I did observe, as one example, that based on the variety of potato chip brands, it could be a challenge for all of the companies to attain long-term growth.
Denise Morrison, CEO of the Campbell Soup Company, gave an interesting presentation. Their headquarters is located in Camden, New Jersey, where there is a 40 percent obesity rate in children, due to a lack of access to fresh produce. Their response has been to create a local source for affordable produce, by providing these items to as many local supermarkets as possible, since Camden does not have specialty markets. This project really resonated with me. Campbell uses strategic foresight and translates that into innovation as a growth driver. They feel this will create opportunities for their employees, will lead to affordable and healthy food for consumers, and will help build a better world for their neighbors. All food companies should take heed of this approach.
There were a lot of familiar faces at the Expo many of them with interesting new products. I was glad to see such companies as The Perfect Bite, Follow Your Heart and Hak’s Barbeque Sauce presenting their new products which will be in the market in the future.