Top 5 Organic Food Trends for 2013

Written by Max Goldberg on January 11, 2013. Follow Max on Twitter: @livingmaxwell.

Since I started livingmaxwell a few years ago, doing this post has always been a favorite of mine.

One challenge is that some of the items that I have written about in the past – pressed juice, high pressure pasteurization technology, and GMO activism – will be a growing trend every single year. So, what I try to do is not to repeat myself but find emerging trends that are at their early stages.

For 2013, here are my Top 5 Organic Food Trends.

GLUTEN-FREE OATS

As most people know, gluten-free is an enormous market but finding gluten-free organic oats at a reasonable cost is a real challenge. While there are some companies using gluten-free oats, a majority of them do not because the price is simply too high.

My prediction is that (1) the supply of this ingredient increases, thereby dropping the cost, or (2) more companies will start incorporating gluten-free oats into their products, even if it means bumping up the end-price to consumers.

Similar to food sprayed with pesticides, educated and health-conscious eaters do not want gluten and will pay more to avoid it.

INLFUX OF EUROPEAN PRODUCTS

In the past, if a company wanted to sell an organic product in both the U.S. and the European Union (EU), this required two sets of organic certification paperwork, one here and one in Europe. As a result, not a lot of people went down this road.

Last year, however, the U.S. and the EU signed a historic organic food free-trade agreement and now only one set of paperwork is required. While there are a few differences with organic requirements for livestock and wine products, anything that is certified organic in one trade zone can be sold as certified organic in the other.

2013 is the year when American consumers will have a lot more choice when it comes to European organic food products.

SUGAR-FREE

Even though the alternative sweetener coconut palm sugar (one of my top organic food trends of 2011) will continue its rapid growth, I firmly believe that there is a small movement taking hold that doesn’t want any added sugar in its food.

Company founders and executives have been hearing these complaints since so many products are sweetened or over-sweetened. As such, companies will do one of two things.

They’ll start to offer sugar-free versions of products that have traditionally contained some type of added sweetener  (palm sugar, agave, brown rice syrup, honey, stevia, cane juice, etc.) or they’ll use fruit (dates, berries, etc.) to naturally sweeten the product.

PROBIOTIC DRINKS

There is a growing acceptance that many of the health problems that we suffer from today is because we don’t have enough of the beneficial bacteria in our bodies. This is especially the case with children, and some doctors believe that probiotics significantly help people deal with digestive issues, autism, food allergies, autoimmune disorders, diabetes, depression, and many other ailments.

As such, probiotic drinks will become much more mainstream and the market for them will really take off.

TRANSPARENCY IN THE RAW FOOD WORLD

For organic food, there are strict government rules, regulations, and enforcement. If you fraudulently mislabel something as organic, you’ll go to jail.

In the raw food world, a niche segment of the organic food industry, there is a widely accepted assumption that anything that is not heated above 118 degrees is considered “raw”.

Is this number set in stone and accepted by absolutely everyone? No.

Is there any government regulation or enforcement about raw food and this 118 degree threshold? No.

So, this begs the following question. How do we know if something is truly raw when it is labeled as such on the packaging?

The answer is that we don’t know. Therefore, we must rely on the ethics of the company selling the product.

While many raw food businesses are honest and forthright about this, there is talk in the marketplace that some product companies are not being truthful and are playing very, very loose with the term “raw”.

Since the government is unlikely to intervene in this area, I expect there to be customer backlash this year about raw food production methods and claims. Customers will demand transparency and will no longer take the “raw” label at face value.

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9 Comments

  1. Max
    Not sure how to take these when there are bigger issues afoot for organics. The popularly accepted view that organics is on a roll – in fact, is undergoing a meteoric rise – turns out to be a misconception as the reality shows organics is in fact stalled. Of concern is how organics’ leadership’s self-driven boosterism talks up global organic sales presently at $59 billion (Source: FiBL & IFOAM 2012). Glossed over is that organics’ sales in some markets are slowing, and in some cases actually reversing, like the UK. The just-published Co-operative Bank Ethical Consumer Markets Report 2012 (http://www.co-operative.coop/corporate/Investors/Publications/Ethical-Consumerism-Report/) confirms that, out of 10 ethical food and drink categories, organic was the only one that declined by almost 11% in value during the most recent year. [ By contrast, Fairtrade grew by 24% and sustainable fish by 32%; even free-range eggs grew by 6%]. Increasingly the view is that something is wrong within organics and the switch in thinking from “can organics grow” to “Will organics survive”? suggests this is a time to pause for serious reflection. Looking through another lens, how does the IFOAM/FiBL touted organics’ $59bn market position stack with Frost & Sullivan’s 2011 recorded $13 trillion value for global conventional food and beverage market? First consider the 1:1,000 billion to trillion ratio explained say by the 5 minute/one mile trip to the local grocer and the 12 hours needed for a 1,000 mile road trip. Doing the math gives organics’ a 0,42% share of the global food system. Being clear-sighted, organics then is simply more a story of insitutional failure than success – this is about a job not done. (Think Clint Eastwood talking to the empty chair ..) The problem is organics is unled and searching questions need to be asked of those charged with growing the organic category. So Max while your trend forecasts are certainly interesting in a localized way, it would be great to see you look to the skies because the organic market urgently needs a growth trend. Growth isn’t something we can wait for – organics needs to get where it needs to go, sooner rather than later. Something “seismic” is urgently needed to advance organics. Analysis concludes that a massive shake-up is needed within organics EU and Swiss-centric global leadership architecture and action needs to be galvanized fast because if change doesn’t come the dire fear is that organics will fail.

    Written by OrganicTruth on January 11, 2013 @ 3:52 pm
  2. Thanks for the great post, Max – as always. Love the sugar-free trend prediction (I hope!), and agree wholeheartedly on the probiotic prediction. Also, very interested to read more of your thoughts in the future on the raw definition discussion. As is happening now with “organic” in the personal care realm, I agree there will be growing consumer backlash as more companies (big or small) start more widely tapping into the popular “raw” buzz word for market share without evidence to back up their claims. I just had an interesting discussion with someone on the definition of raw, though… I have always understood that the heat threshold had more to do with the potency of, or, if the line is crossed, the destruction of the beneficial nutrients and enzymes in the food. And I would imagine this threshold could vary from food to food, just as the boiling point for different liquids varies. No? Is a certain degree mark actually what matters here, or that the living benefits of the food have been maintained even if the ‘cold pressing’ or ‘low-temperature drying’ technically reaches above 118F? Thoughts?

    Cheers,
    Lacey :)

    Written by Lacey @ KV Organics on January 11, 2013 @ 6:59 pm
  3. I’ve heard that it’s questionable whether probiotic products (whether they’re drinks, supplements, or in some other form) actually have an influence on the gut flora since stomach acids and the like would break them down before they ever get to the intestines.

    What about prebiotic drinks? Unlike probiotics, prebiotic products provide food for the gut flora, and thus, actually help increase the natural bacteria in our intestines by feeding it what it loves to eat. These seem more likely to actually have a positive outcome for those who consume them than would prebiotic drinks.

    Written by Melissa on January 12, 2013 @ 7:49 am
  4. Your comment about organics needing leadership is spot on. There are many factions within the organic industry, and everything is incredibly territorial. As a result, many organizations do not work together and are constantly going after one another. It makes no sense at all. We are all on the same team and need to be working together.

    Unlike the GMO industry, which has very, very deep pocketed companies such as Monsanto, Dow, Cargill and others, we don’t have that. The lack of leadership is simply the lack of one or two rich companies whose money will create a leadership position. Therefore, we have many smaller organizations, mostly on the grass roots level, which always scrambling for dollars and by virtue of a lack of size can’t take a leadership position and get the others to come along.

    The organic industry’s lack of funding or influence within governments creates a challenge to growing even faster.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on January 12, 2013 @ 10:48 am
  5. Hi Lacey,

    The issue is there are no agreed upon standards that everyone is abiding by. One company uses one standard while another company uses something different. Or, some companies just might be flat lying. Therefore, we are comparing apples to oranges and the consumer ends up being short-changed. I don’t foresee raw food standards coming anytime soon. So, consumers will end up demanding transparency from each company to see exactly what the methods that each business is using.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on January 12, 2013 @ 10:51 am
  6. Hi Melissa,

    I am sure that there are critics of probiotics (there are critics of every type of food or diet). However, my take on it is that probiotics are very important and effective at dealing with many health ailments and the research seems to back it up. Prebiotics are important too, for exactly the reasons that you state.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on January 12, 2013 @ 11:12 am
  7. Hi Max,

    Yes, I very much agree that transparency is key – as is education as to what the terms each company uses means to them and why they use them. That way, customers can find what lines up with what they want. It takes effort on both sides though, I think. Companies working to become as transparent and educational as possible and putting this information in easy to find places on their websites, and customers learning to ask better questions to find what they want.

    Curious to know if you think different foods could have different heat thresholds for maintaining their living benefits?

    Re the probiotics. Yes, I think both pro and pre and critical – as are finding sources that are truly fermented organic foods, rather than gm bugs or those more quickly and cheaply cultured on fecal matter. Yuck! Diversity of strains, I think, is also of huge importance – and they should be hardy enough to survive the journey to the gut.

    Cheers,
    Lacey :)

    Written by Lacey @ KV Organics on January 12, 2013 @ 5:22 pm
  8. Hi Lacey,

    With regards to different foods and different temperature thresholds, the answer is I don’t know. 118 degrees seems to be the commonly accepted number but for some foods it may very well be higher. It is a very good question and one that I think about often.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on January 14, 2013 @ 3:29 pm
  9. Hi Max,

    I recently came across your website in my search to find out more about eating healthier, it’s one of my goals for 2013 and beyond. You have a lot of great information here, keep up the good work and I especially liked your insights in regards to probiotics in this post.

    Written by Sandra Henson on November 25, 2013 @ 8:22 am

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