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Industry Snapshot: Organic and Natural Products

The natural and organic industry is expected to grow 9.5% in 2020, to $252 billion. Supplements and plant-based proteins are two fast-growing categories.

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At the Natural Products Expo “Spark Change” Virtual event in late-August, Carlotta Mast of the New Hope Network, and Nick McCoy of Whipstitch Capital, discussed the state of the natural and organic industry. Total industry sales – which has had a positive impact from consumer demand during COVID-19 – is expected to grow 9.5% in 2020, to $252 billion.

Here are some of the highlights of their discussion:

Personal Health

As consumers prioritize health & wellness during the pandemic, supplement sales are expected to grow 12%, or $3 billion, to a total of $54 billion in 2020. According to Mast, this is the “highest growth rate for supplements since 1997 when the supplement category was a mere $14 billion in annual consumer sales.” She also said that the sales of cold, flu and immune supplements are expected to grow 51% to $5.2 billion this year, and there is an increase in sales of sleep supplements, mood supplements, and eye-health supplements, “as we are all stressing out a little bit more, sleeping less and spending way too much time in front of our computer screens.”

Food and Beverage

Another industry “bright spot” is the sales of natural, organic and functional food and beverages, which saw a growth of over 200% more than conventional foods and beverages in 2019. 2020 is seeing continued strong growth.

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Plant-based products are also surging, particularly sales of plant-based alternatives to meat - one of the food categories most disrupted by COVID and changing consumer preferences. Said Mast, “While the overall meat category is expected to lose $20 billion this year, retail sales of plant-based meat alternatives are up nearly 150% compared to last year according to new data released by the Plant-Based Foods Association and Spins. According to our research of those who tried plant-based meat alternatives for the first time during the COVID pandemic, sometimes because they couldn't find the meat products they were looking for and other times because they were interested in trying these new products in a recipe at home, 72% are likely to eat plant protein at least monthly, with 22% saying they anticipate eating plant-based meat alternatives at least weekly, if not more often.”


Brands are prioritizing e-commerce and direct-to-consumer sales strategies, as e-commerce sales in the industry have seen more than 50% growth. However, said Mast, “although total natural and organic eCommerce sales are set to double between 2018 and 2023…consumers are still expected to predominantly shop brick and mortar retail for natural and organic products over the next several years.”

Private Label

According to McCoy, during the COVID pandemic there has been a shift away from private label, and back to name brand, even though both producers benefitted from “pantry loading” during lockdown. Spins research shows that conventional grocery, drug and mass market retail such as Target, Walmart, etc., listed private label sales at 19.9% in February of 2020. By July, private label had dropped to 19%, which, said McCoy, is a very significant drop based on data over the last few decades. He said, “I think that's a signal that consumers are going to the brands that they trust as they're exploring their own wellness in their food.”

Future Trends

McCoy and Mast discussed diversity in the industry and said that the consumer base doesn’t match the current US population. New product opportunities are expected to grow, as population trends move toward multicultural foods - a “new dimension of innovation” – with new ingredients, flavors and cuisines catering to the broader American consumer.

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Mission-driven businesses are also expected to grow as both consumers and investors prioritize not only personal health, but planetary health, and social equity and justice. (People, planet and profit.) And, said McCoy, the paradigm of what a mission-driven business looks like will move far beyond the “buy-one-give-one” model, such as Ben & Jerry’s, who in 2019 donated $3.5 million to social justice initiatives worldwide.

To learn more about New Hope Networks programs, including Spark Change, click here.

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