The biggest news from the Natural Product Expo West 2016 is that the sale of healthy foods is now mainstream. A record 43 percent 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.
Consumers are driving this mega-trend. They are demanding healthier food at record levels. Natural and organic foods won over 10 percent sales growth in 2015 at a time when our economy was achieving only a 2 percent annual growth rate.
Consumers want foods and beverages with less:
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. Half 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 in which 75 percent of consumers feel companies are emphasizing profits over health?
To the food and beverage industry’s credit, it is trying to align with consumers. But its efforts are incremental compared to the disruptive improvements required to prevent a health catastrophe. The Coca Cola Co. may be offering smaller 8-ounce soda bottles, but it still measures itself 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 Soup 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.
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Bill Roth is a cleantech business pioneer having led teams that developed the first hydrogen fueled Prius and a utility scale, non-thermal solar power plant. Using his CEO and senior officer experiences, Roth has coached hundreds of CEOs and business owners on how to develop and implement projects that win customers and cut costs while reducing environmental impacts. As a professional economist, Roth has written numerous books including his best selling The Secret Green Sauce (available on Amazon) that profiles proven sustainable best practices in pricing, marketing and operations. His most recent book, The Boomer Generation Diet (available on Amazon) profiles his humorous personal story on how he used sustainable best practices to lose 40 pounds and still enjoy Happy Hour!