Acting natural

The Natural Products Expo West show attracted a wide range of exhibitors. Here is a sampling of what the thousands of attendees enjoyed.

By Seth Mendelson

In hopes of discovering the next “big thing,” in the natural and organics market, thousands of retailers and suppliers packed the Anaheim Convention Center for Natural Products Expo West in March. While nothing stole the show, attendees mentioned several potential possibilities, including the ongoing evolution of the gluten-free market.

Many industry observers added that there is good reason to be excited about the future of this category. Industry data shows that dollar sales of natural and organic products in food stores are increasing at a nearly double-digit rate and more and more merchants are stocking these products. Meanwhile retailers continue to add gluten-free products to their mix, mainly because more consumers are demanding these items—for a multitude of reasons.

Here is a look at what some companies that exhibited at the show are offering:

derma e Natural Bodycare 
Derma e Natural Body­care, based in Simi Val­l­ey, Ca­lif. is introducing a number of items fortified with vitamin A into its natural skin care line, including a pore refining mask, pore refining gel, cleansers and scrubs. “Consumers understand the benefits of vitamin A,“ said Susan Morehart, director of sales and marketing. “Derma e has always been among the fastest growing products in the natural skin care category so we think it is very important to get these items on retail shelves.”
She added that the company provides in-depth support for its products, including offering samples in-store, to develop consumer awareness and help educate them. Derma e is also introducing Intensive Therapy Foot Crème and a skin lightening product.

Hodgson Mill
Ray Martin, vice president of sales and marketing for Effingham, Ill.-based Hodgson Mill, said the company in­troducing a seasoned coating mix, made with 10 herbs and spices. The product has a suggested retail price of $3.49.

“We kept a similar formula to what we offer with our Kentucky Kernel Seasoned Flour but with brown rice flour. It fries up very well,” said Martin.

Hodgson Mill is also taking a closer look at its entire gluten-free line to determine how they can make it more appetizing. “Right now we are going through all of our gluten-free products, looking to see if we can upgrade the formulas and make them taste better,” Martin said. “As more ingredient alternatives are being developed, we are going to take advantage of them and deliver better taste to our customers.”

Natracare, the Gree­­­ley, Colo.-ba­sed personal care company, has been push­ing the natural and organic end of the business for years. They believe now is the right time for all retailers to get on board. “Consumers are asking for more natural and organic products in many categories, including what we do,” said Susie Hewson, the company’s owner. “They are seeking out these types of products so it is very important that retailers offer the right variety, use the right signage and develop the right promotions to develop awareness.”

Hewson added that it is Natracare’s responsibility to engage the retail buyer and educate them to the benefits of natural and organic personal care products, including tampons, baby wipes and incontinence items. “We can help retailers better understand this market and show them that by offering natural products in these categories they can separate themselves from the competition,” she said. “If a retailer does not start offering these items, they risk losing shoppers to other stores and the Internet.”

New England Natural Bakers

New England Natural Bakers, based in Greenfield, Mass., offers several new items, including low-fat probiotic raspberry al­mond granola. The shelf-stable prod­uct, which company officials said is designed to promote digestive health and support the immune system, is available in pouch and bulk forms. The company is also offering an ancient grain granola that company officials say possesses similar qualities to gluten-free products.

“All of our products are designed for the health-conscious consumer and we are always developing new items that meet their demands,” said Larry Cornick, marketing coordinator.

New England Natural Bakers offers an entire line of organic and natural granola products and organic and natural trail mix.

Pacific Natural Foods
Tualatin, Ore.-based Pacific Natural Foods is trying to make it easier for consumers to make soup. The company is launching a new soup segment with its line of soup starters and bases, beginning with Vietnamese-style Beef and Chicken Pho. The new soup starters reflect growing consumer interest in cooking ethnic dishes at home and provide an easy way to customize restaurant favorites, according to company officials.

“Consumers are looking for healthy and convenient ways to put fresh, homemade dinners on the table. Although most people don’t have eight hours to make a traditional Pho base, they still want to enjoy the complex flavors of labor-intensive soups at home,” said Tim Ramsey, vice president of sales and marketing. “Our soup starters capitalize on the current do-it-yourself trend that we’re seeing with so many everyday chefs. By providing a delicately-seasoned, slow cooked base they’ll have limitless opportunities to prepare globally inspired meals with their own signature fresh ingredients.”

Pacific rolled out two USDA organic soup starters, Beef and Chicken Pho at the show, with Southwest Tortilla to follow this summer. Each will be priced between $3.49 and $3.69.

Pacific Natural Foods is also adding a new organic, heart-healthy 7 Grain blend to its line of non-dairy beverages. Available in Original and Vanilla flavors, the combination of seven organic whole grains—oats, brown rice, triticale, wheat, barley, spelt and millet—is a naturally sweetened source of calcium and B vitamins and features 500mg Omega 3 ALA from Flax oil. The company is also expanding its popular line of carton soups with five new chef-inspired flavors featuring organic chicken meat raised without added hormones or antibiotics. It has a suggested retail price range of $3.49 to $3.69.

Schär USA
With more consumers asking for gluten-free bread products, Schär USA is trying to meet the demand. The Lyndhurst, N.J.-based company is offering hearty white and hearty grain breads. The hearty white bread is fortified to Food & Drug Administration standards. “There are a lot of frozen breads on the market,” says Don Braun, national sales manager. “We tested our breads against them in many ways and in all measures we out-tested the competition. These are very good products.”

In addition, Schär offers a line of parbaked rolls and baguettes that are gluten-free and shelf-stable.

Wholly Wholesome
Chester, N.J.-based Wholly Wholesome is introducing traditional 6-inch pie shells (suggested retail price of $4.49) in a three-pack and a traditional rolled pie dough ($5.99). Both products are made from organic wheat flour, organic palm oil and organic cane sugar.

The company offers a full line of pies, pie shells, pie crusts, cookies and cakes and, according to president Don Wintz, all are made without artificial flavors, colors or preservatives and contain no hydrogenated fats, oils or trans fatty acids.

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