28 January 2019, 10:55 AM
  • Natural & Organic Products Europe, taking place in April at ExCeL London, has spoken to some of its expert attendees to find out what the coming year holds for the world of natural and organic food and drink
What’s in store for the natural and organic sector in 2019?

Lee Holdstock, trade relations manager for Soil Association Certification
Research suggests that sustainable and values-based propositions are becoming more downturn resistant, especially among millennial shoppers. So, even when budgets are squeezed, sustainability is now high up on consumers’ list of priorities. This is perhaps the area that organic will stand out most prominently in 2019, avoiding a potential squeeze on spend from ABs in the year ahead.

Discount retailers are also working to organic’s benefit, addressing one of the key reasons that consumers don’t buy more organic – lack of availability. Aldi and Lidl have been massively increasing their sales of organic. Indeed, Lidl’s organic sales grew by over 50% last year. While independent retailers are often seen as the spiritual home of organic, supermarkets, particularly the discounters, continued and growing commitment to the sector shouldn’t be ignored.

Potential future trade agreements coming out of Brexit negotiations could provide an opportunity for UK agriculture to become a global leader in food safety, animal welfare and environmental standards. At the same time, it’s critical that any trade deal doesn’t result in a race to the bottom with UK farmers and food producers being undercut and forced to compete against imports of lower quality.

Joe Jackson, director of Apothecary 27 (winner of Best Independent Retailer at Natural & Organic Awards Europe 2018)
I don’t think the zero-waste movement is going anywhere and is only going to grow in 2019. Since launching our household care refill station it has gone from strength to strength. We have more and more people requesting more refillable goods, such as food and body care. I also think it will be an interesting time for the way companies think about the way they package their products. The demand is there from the public, and the suppliers are listening. Pukka, for example, are now packaging their teas and lattes in material that is 100% compostable.

Veganism is another one that is still on the rise in 2019, whether it’s for health reasons or because of animal welfare. The vegan products that are being launched today are far better than they were, even two years ago. Cashew-based dairy products and meat alternatives, such as jackfruit, have been gaining steam in 2018, and I think will only get bigger in the coming year.

Graham Keen, executive director at Health Food Manufacturers’ Association (HFMA)
I see a mix of threats, challenges and opportunities ahead of us. Depending on your view, the unrelenting and hugely impactful rise in online sales is either an opportunity or a threat. The way that we, as consumers, purchase our products has changed for ever, and those that accept and adapt to this change will stand the best chance of surviving and flourishing.

In terms of product opportunities, three obvious areas set for continued dynamic growth are CBD-containing products, turmeric and curcumin-based products and supplements targeting children, e.g. gummies. But we’re also expecting to see a rising interest in personalised daily vitamin subscriptions in 2019, as people adopt more unique diets and also see the benefits of the subscription model in their busy lives. Vegetarianism and veganism are very much on trend right now, so another opportunity is an emerging gap in the market for our industry to provide the vital nutrients required for new, alternative plant-based diets and vegan lifestyles.”

Abigail Stevens, trademark marketing manager at The Vegan Society
The popularity of plant-based and vegan lifestyles is not showing any signs of slowing, with The Economist naming 2019 ‘The Year of the Vegan’. Due in part to rise of the eco-conscious consumer, we have identified that there has been an increase in people opting for a vegan diet for environmental reasons. We predict that, in line with the demands of these eco-consumers, there will be more pressure to create sustainable and environmentally-friendly vegan products, encouraging innovation in the sector and making way for more plastic-free and low-waste product solutions.

Such a huge number of new vegan product launches is increasing competition in the sector. Supermarkets are in on it too, racing to launch the most diverse plant-based ranges to catch the attention of shoppers. Brands will have to think carefully about their branding and communicating the vegan credentials of their products to stand out from the crowd.

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