With fewer new gluten-free products and many more organic items showing, the exhibitors at the 2003 Natural Products Expo West held in Anaheim this past March were, once again, quick to react to changes in the marketplace, whether initiated by government regulations or consumer preferences.

Some new products were simple, clever and good. Peanut Better Inc. (Agoura Hills, Calif.) introduced a line of sweet and savory flavored peanut butters. The Cinnamon Currant and Vanilla Cranberry varieties—containing both flavorings and berries—were “gourmet great.” The savory line had more of the unexpected, with varieties such as Thai Ginger going down well.

The organic pavilion was sprawling, with products from major players such as Seeds of Change (Santa Fe, N.M.) owned by Mars Inc. (Hackettstown, N.J.) to smaller companies such as Dr. Oetker (Plainsboro, N.J.), a supplier of baked good mixes that always is on my “stop by” list. Companies appear encouraged by the stability and “leveling of the playing field” imposed by the USDA's organic regulations implemented last year.

Still, it took factoids from Grant Ferrier, president, Nutrition Business Journal, to put things in perspective. NBJ placed total organic foods sales at $8.52 billion in 2002 or 1.6% of total U.S. food sales. However, statistics on purchasers portend opportunities for further growth. In 2001, heavy and frequent purchasers of organic foods, 2.15% of the population, accounted for 50% of the market. And, while the food sales increased 3.2% from 2001 to 2002, organic sales grew an even 20% over the same period.

With final 2001 figures in, NBJ pegged total U.S. food sales at $521.8 billion. Of this, 2.4% were positioned as natural and organic foods, 3.5% functional foods, 10.3% lesser-evil foods (think lowfat), and 83.8% were designated as “market standard” products—for example, Kraft's (Northbrook, Ill.) Macaroni and Cheese.

Additionally, organic food sales growth is greatest in mainstream grocery stores. “The Organic Consumer Profile,” a 2002 study by the Hartman Group (Belleview, Wash.), asked consumers where they currently buy organic and natural foods and beverages. Some 62% said grocery/supermarket stores—up from 56% the year before (1999). Even greater growth occurred in stores such as Wal-Mart (Springdale, Ark.) Some 13% of respondents said they purchased organic foods from discount and club stores in 2000, up from 1% in 1999.

Growing trends eventually level off. A few industry insiders already declared the organic market as mature. However, with the multinationals just entering the field, it will be interesting to see what their innovation and marketing muscle brings.

Internet Information

For more information on this issue's articles, see the Internet sites provided below.

Stand by Your Brand
www.brandequity.com — BrandEquity International
www.brandinquiry.com — Brand Inquiry Partners

Delivering the (Baked) Goods
www.nps.ars.usda.gov/publications/publications.htm?SEQ_NO_115=123872 — Waxy wheat flour blends and bread staling
www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/swql/TEXT/publications.htm — Site to download Soft Wheat Quality research abstracts from the USDA - ARS from 1960
www.PreparedFoods.com/archives/2000/2000_10/0010denz.htm— Enzymes in staling prevention

Cruising into Caribbean Cuisine
www.unichef.com/caribgloss.htm — A glossary of Caribbean spices and ingredients
www.caribcon.com — An extensive list of Caribbean recipes
www.afiwi.com/dates.asp — Learn about Caribbean history with this comprehensive calendar

Formulating Halal Foods
www.ams.usda.gov/nop — USDA website detailing regulations on ingredients for organic products

Out to Lunch
www.meatami.org — American Meat Institute
www.iddba.org — International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association

Bioactives for Women's Health
www.womensurgeons.org/HerbalMed.PDF — Overview of herbs for women's health
http://femina.com — Site for women on health and other issues
www.health4her.com — Diversified site

Nutritional Lipids: The Fats of Life
www.NutraSolutions.com//main/articles/2002/0202/Lipids.htm — Article “A Lexicon on Lipids”
www.PreparedFoods.com/archives/2002/2002_6/0602omega3.htm — Article on foods touting omega fatty acids