For those who attended Natural Products Expo West 2018, the 80,000+ attendees and enormous crowds were a very clear indication that the demand for organic continues to explode, with no slowdown in sight.
Underneath all of the excitement at Anaheim, here were my key takeaways and trends from the show:
* The interest in regenerative agriculture continues to grow by the day and is becoming a priority for both small and large companies alike, including food giant General Mills. The industry is pouring more resources into this method of farming as a way to mitigate climate change, improve soil health, and capture carbon from the environment. Products are being designed with regenerative agriculture in mind.
Yet, just like everything else in organic, there is no widespread agreement about how to best pursue regenerative agriculture, in terms of the methods and qualification.
Leading the pack in this movement is the Regenerative Organic Certification (ROC), which officially launched at Expo West.
With the backing of Patagonia, Dr. Bronner’s and Rodale Institute, ROC has the resources and marketing muscle to become the new gold standard in organic. While it is still very early for ROC, it is my belief that the USDA organic seal will soon become the baseline and that ROC will be what brands aspire to achieve.
As Jeff Moyer, Executive Director of Rodale Institute, told me at the show, “There needed to be a place for the energy to go, as to how to make the industry better. Now, there is a place.”
Many people have been clamoring for the bar in organic to be set higher.
And that is precisely what ROC is attempting to do, not only for soil health but for worker and animal welfare standards as well.
ROC has approximately 10 brands participating in the 12-month pilot program, including Patagonia, Dr. Bronner’s, Maple Hill Creamery, Sol Simple and others. Additionally, there are roughly 200 individuals, brands and farmers who have signed on to become an “Ally” of ROC.
While other regenerative agriculture certifications will most likely emerge and with Demeter continuing to certify an increasing number of Biodynamic farms and brands, ROC is the best-funded one — which gives it a very significant advantage.
The sense that I got at Expo West was that brands do not want to be left behind on ROC. This sentiment will play an instrumental role in widespread recognition and adoption.
ROC is a massive development and is something I will be covering extensively in the year ahead.
* One of my Top 5 Organic Food Trends for 2018, which I shared in a previous Organic Insider, was radical transparency.
Far too many organic brands are not addressing the very real threat of glyphosate contamination, particularly worrisome because the State of California has said that this chemical “causes cancer”.
Some companies, however, are being proactive. I loved how Zego is urging customers to ask other brands for the testing and transparency that it is providing, including glyphosate testing.
Additionally, an increasing number of people were talking about or showcasing their participation in the Glyphosate Residue-Free certification.
In the personal care products space, Made Of is truly raising the bar when it comes to transparency. The company introduced its Ultimate Transparency Promise and discloses its factories, formulas, and testing on every ingredient.
* The hottest ingredients at the show were turmeric, medicinal mushrooms, and apple cider vinegar. They were everywhere.
One particular apple cider vinegar product that I had never seen before but found extremely compelling was from Vim+Vigor. This formula, which goes back seven generations, uses 14 different herbs, including ginger, licorice, valerian, fenugreek and black cohosh.
* The one ingredient that will be absolutely EVERYWHERE in the organic industry is CBD.
I say “will” because there is still much confusion around CBD, due to the legality of this ingredient and if it will be allowed in USDA certified organic products.
New Hope dedicated an entire morning last Wednesday to CBD, and once CBD is fully cleared for organic, it will quickly become the most popular ingredient in the industry.
In the non-organic market, brands are constantly dealing with the reluctance from retailers to carry products labeled as CBD. The solution they have come up with is to use “hemp oil extract” or similar language. Below is an example from the soda company Tree Below Zero.
My suggestion to organic brands: Get educated about CBD, come up with formulations or recipes, and start mapping out the supply chain. You want to be fully prepared for when the floodgates open.
However, I say all of this under the guise that Big Pharma could come in and lock down the CBD market entirely.
* With probiotics and fermented products having established serious market share in the organic food world, another trend that I found interesting was that probiotics are making inroads in the personal care and home cleaning space. I definitely expect this to continue.
Counter Culture, which has a big following in Australia and just launched in the U.S., and Boston-based Mother Dirt both had fascinating products.
* The North Tower at Expo West, which just opened this year and was dubbed the “hot products” section, was probably more crowded than any other part of Expo West. I heard complaints from some brands that the third floor of the convention center had lost some of its luster and that they no longer wanted to be there.
* Despite the insane crowds, I still love the Fresh Ideas Tent. To me, it is still one of the best few hours at the entire show. I always find outstanding products there.
* Congrats to The Lundberg Family, Walter Robb — former Co-CEO of Whole Foods, Organic Valley’s Theresa Marquez, the late Terry Dalton of Unicorn Village, Ron & Arnie Koss of Earth’s Best, and several others who were inducted into the Hall of Legends.
* I’d like to give a shoutout to two fantastic people, both of whom were honored on cereal boxes.
Arran Stephens, founder of Nature’s Path, is celebrating 50 years of pioneering the organic movement. Peggy Sutton, founder of To Your Health Sprouted Flour Co., was featured on a Kashi cereal box for her work in the sprouted organic grain market.
* Hollywood actress and Once Upon a Farm co-founder Jennifer Garner gave a phenomenal keynote address at The Organic Center dinner.
What I can tell you is that this woman truly cares about feeding kids healthy food, and the organic industry is very lucky to have her. She is going to be a tremendous ally for us.
* Having returned to NYC and reflecting back on my five days in Anaheim, the best part of the show was not the products or the trends that I saw. It was getting to see the many special people I have become friends with over the years.
And it is these relationships that Expo West plays a critical role in cultivating.
Thank you so much, New Hope, for an amazing week in California.
Have a great day!
Max Goldberg, Founder
While the OTA's lawsuit against the USDA is still pending, the agency has officially pulled the plug on the organic animal welfare standards, demonstrating that it is completely beholden to corporate lobbyists.
Another week, another glyphosate warning. This time, the toxic chemical is linked to shortened pregnancies in women.
On March 19th, vendors and suppliers will be meeting in Austin to express their serious discontent with the proposed merchandising policy changes.
With many other Big Food companies having already launched venture capital arms, Kraft Heinz is following suit and has introduced Springboard to seek out promising organic, natural and health start-ups.
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* Want to have bees on your property but don’t have the time or patience to manage a full beehive? If so, check this out.
* There is a kid-friendly, organic-obsessed brewpub in Portland, Oregon. Who knew?
* Sad to report another high-profile closure in the pressed organic juice world. This time, it is JugoFresh in Miami.
* Acclaimed NYC farm-to-table restaurant Rouge Tomate is going fast-casual.
* I can’t wait to check out Adelita, an organic Mexican restaurant, the next time I go back to Boston.
* There is a new restaurant in Los Angeles that has no executive chef. But it does have an executive farmer.
* The Salvation Army is opening up healthy, inexpensive grocery stores in food deserts called DMG Foods.
* Lastly, huge congrats to Patrick Foraker, son of Once Upon a Farm’s CEO and co-founder John Foraker, who is off to college this fall! Here is the video footage.