Growth in the natural and organic products industry “remains robust” as the industry continues to outpace total grocery, said Carlotta Mast, SVP of content and market leader for New Hope Network during the "State of Natural and Organic" keynote address at Natural Products Expo East on Sept. 23. The natural and organic sector has seen 7% growth in 2021, which is considerably higher than that seen in 2019, added Mast at the event, taking place this week at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.
Given this pace of growth, New Hope says the natural/organic product sector is on track to become a more than $400 billion industry by 2030.
Some of the growth can be attributed to new consumers gained since COVID. More consumers came into organics as they were pantry-loading early in the pandemic, said Mast, who added that organic produce saw especially strong growth last year.
“That continues to positively affect the industry today,” she continued. “People tried those new brands and stuck with them, especially in the food and beverage categories.” And while growth has slowed in 2021, sales remain elevated when compared with recent years.
With consumers looking to shore up their immune systems and stay healthy during the pandemic, sales of supplements soared, reaching $56 billion in 2020. Vitamin D sales “skyrocketed,” as immunity was a big driver of the category, said Mast, who added that sales of immunity boosters have begun to stabilize.
Continued growth is expected in multivitamins and immune-health products for children, however, as many are still too young to get vaccinated against COVID-19. As the pace of growth slows for immunity boosters, SPINS data indicates that consumers are looking to supplements to fulfill other needs, like better sleep.
The presentation further addressed the explosive growth in plant-based products. According to SPINS data, the plant-based market reached $6.4 billion sales during the 52 weeks ending Aug. 8—a 12.8% increase from the previous year, said fellow keynote panelist Kathryn Peters, EVP of SPINS.
But it’s not just natural/organic food and beverage that’s seeing growth. Nonfoods grew 9.5% last year to $24 billion in 2020, said Mast. As consumers looked to sanitize their households in the pandemic, sales of household cleaners alone increased 20%. Interestingly, personal care grew 6.5% at a time when homebound consumers were likely spending less time on grooming.
While e-commerce accelerated growth in the natural/organics industry during the pandemic, brick-and-mortar remains essential, as the vast majority of industry sales are rung up in-store, said Mast. There are still more natural products purchased at Walmart than online, added Peters.
With the U.S. diversifying faster than predicted, non-white communities are influencing a variety of trends. “They’re influencing so many things: influencing the culture … [and] the food that is so popular in our stores,” said Mast. “It’s really benefitting things like multicultural brands and natural and organic.”
But while the population has diversified, leadership in the natural products industry has not, added Mast, who pointed to the need to support BIPOC-owned businesses; to help companies make progress in diversity, equity and inclusion; and to expand mentorship of people of color seeking leadership roles.
By 2030, we can be the “industry making and leading the change we need to see in the world,” she said.