Enhanced flavor, tangy dough and gluten-sensitive ingredients are making fermented pizza dough a new trend. Slow, fermented pizza dough is starting to appear on more pizzeria menus. Chef Max Balliet of Lupo in Kentucky said “The sourness is the biggest variable that you can affect with time. But what I like, instead of going full-force sour, is more of a balance. That way, there’s a bit of intrigue there. When that’s done properly, it gives you a dough that’s got complexity.” 

Read more (The Manual)

Today, everyone is a natural and organic shopper. The natural products industry has experienced incredible growth over the past 20 years that, today, 99 percent of American consumers buy natural products.

“More than ever now, we’re hearing people talk about seeking top products, seeking unique products, seeking trending products and even seeking quote unquote ‘better’ products,” says Christine Kapperman, senior content director with New Hope Network.

SPINS released their latest State of the Natural Industry report in August, sharing industry trends and highlighting areas of growth. Leaders with SPINS (a data provider for natural, organic and specialty products) hosted a webinar discussing the report.

The natural products industry has seen incredible growth and evolution over the 20 years, more than doubling in dollar volume in the past decade,” says Molly Hjelm, vice president of marketing at SPINS.

Hjelm notes the current natural foods movements is increasingly personalized to consumer’s lifestyles. Consumers want their specific version of natural, like plant-based, grain-free, paleo or free form.

“In this moment in natural, consumers have the power and they’re increasingly personalized preferences have become a movement, disrupting previously untouchable boundaries like milk, immediate consumption beverage and pasta,” she says. “Products once relegated to specific retail outlets are now proliferating to the mainstream.”

Here are four trends in the natural food industry for fermented food brands to implement.

1. Natural Products Driving Market Growth

The latest statistics (tracking three years from May 2017 to May 2019), show the natural industry is selling $47.2 billion a year, growing 5 percent year over year. The conventional food marketplace is selling $448.2 billion a year, but only growing at 1.7 percent year over year. Natural foods have a 10.5 percent sales volume, and 29.3 percent of total market growth.

“Looking back at recent years, the trend is clear – natural products have been outpacing their conventional counterparts for some time in terms of dollar growth,” says Jessica Hochman, the senior manager for natural insights for SPINS.

The top 10 natural product categories: produce, refrigerated yogurt and kefir, shelf-stable chips, pretzels and snacks, refrigerated eggs, refrigerated juices and functional beverages, shelf-stable wellness bars and gels, shelf-stable water, frozen desserts, refrigerated milk and frozen and refrigerated meat, poultry and seafood.

Fermented products are exhibiting some of the strongest dollar share growth. Yogurt and kefir and functional beverages both over index in their respective categories.

2. Convenience Channel Growing

Conventional retailers are embracing natural products – and their returns are incredibly strong. The convenience channel stocks a small volume of natural products, but sales of natural products are growing three times faster than natural and specialty gourmet channels. Natural products are just 4.6 percent of volume in convenience channels, but contribute 15.9 percent of dollar growth.

“The real growth fueling the top line trend comes from the support received by the vendor community,” says Jeff Crumpton, SPINS’ retail solutions manager. The convenience channel is growing at a whopping 10 percent year over year. “Natural products have migrated from the innovation channels all the way to convenience.”

3. Consumers Want Grab-n-Go Options

Why is the convenience channel overdelivering in high amounts? Consumers want grab-n-go options in convenient locations.

“(It) aligns with our knowledge that consumers purchase natural products where it’s easier for them,” Crumpton says. “Retailers and other outlets should be mindful that the competitive pressure to their business means adjusting their assortment with innovative products and monitoring categories and items cross channel, which ensures they’re paying attention to the migration and planning accordingly.”

Traditional retailers are experiencing high growth in food service options, “they’re looking to it as a competitive edge,” Kapperman says.

Fifty-seven percent of retailers said strong sales come from their food service, like hot bars, grab-n-go shelves and in-store deli and cafes.

4. Mainstream Consumer

“Everybody to some extend is buying natural organic,” says Patrick Knight, SPINSprincipal of consumer insights. “And in that regard, we are truly mainstreaming. But not all natural consumers are created the same.”

The core of the natural segment is dominated by consumers defined as true believers and enlightened environmentalists, who make up 28 percent of natural/organic product sales. Next, aspiring natural shoppers defined as healthy realists and strapped seekers make up 16 percent of sales. Mainstream consumers, defined as indifferent traditionalists, struggling switchers and resistant non-believers, total 56 percent of natural/organic sales.

The mainstream category, Knight says, is where the greatest potential resides for the natural market growth.

“Our hypothesis is that mainstream consumers are starting to grow more than core natural organic consumers in purchasing of paleo position products,” Knight says. “Core natural/organic consumers are the first on the latest trends in the marketplace, and therefore can be a barometer for what’s coming.”

Spicy kimchi cures baldness and thickens hair, according to a new scientific report published in the World Journal of Men’s Health. Researchers from Dakook University in South Korea studied men in early stages of hair loss who consumed a kimchi probiotic drink twice a day. After a month, hair count increased from 85 per square centimeter to 90; after four months, hair count increased to 92. Results were even faster and prevalent for female patients with hair loss, who went from an average of 85 hairs per square centimeter to 92 after one month. Hair thickness also increased. This is exciting research for people suffering from hair loss; the kimchi and probiotic product is a natural, safer alternative to hair regrowth drugs. Current hair regrowth drugs have adverse side effects, like irregular heartbeat, weight gain and diarrhea.

Read more (World Journal of Men’s Health)

Thanks to new state law, “Maryland is fermenting as a rising powerhouse in the craft beer brewing industry,” writes the Baltimore Sun. Breweries in Maryland have an economic impact of over $910 million. As multiple breweries across the nation still face restrictive laws that keep them from operating at full capacity, new legislation in Maryland increased the number of barrels a brewery can sell from 500 per year to 5,000. After the local municipality of Carroll County changed zoning to allow breweries in industrial zones, there are now seven breweries in the county. Brewery Fire co-owner Jesse Johnson said: “The mayor and council laid out the rest carpet for us.” A brewer for 10 years, Johnson said counties are usually horrible to work with when opening a business brewing and selling alcohol, but Maryland’s lawmakers have “been a dream to work with.”

Read more (Baltimore Sun

“Everything cultured, fizzy-fied and aged is old-but-new again,” writes Dallas Morning News in their feature on the rising popularity of pu’er dark teas. Known as aged, vintage or post-fermented teas, dark teas are made from leaves that have undergone microbial fermentation. The article continues: “Fermented tea leaves reportedly started as a happy accident, with teas transported in travel-friendly pressed cakes through the humid, mountainous regions of Tea Horse Road, China’s ancient trade route to Tibet. The moisture created a breeding ground for microbes, which turned the leaves into something complex, earthy, smoky and entirely alluring and sought-after.”

Read more (Dallas Morning News

A “bread nerd” in California made a loaf of sourdough using yeast extracted from 4,000-year-old Egyptian artifact. Baker Seamus Blackley (creator of the Xbox) is a bread hobbyist who collects ancient yeast for delicious dough experiments. The New York Times feature on Blackley’s latest sourdough says: “Yeast is a living thing — a fungus. … Once they run out of food, yeast spores go dormant — rather than simply dying — and stay quietly viable for thousands of years until they are extracted.”

Read more (The New York Times)

The grocery market is being disrupted in a way never seen before – and the opportunity for success is great for small- to medium-sized food brands wanting to get in the door.

“I’ve never seen such a time of challenge up and down the value chain from the seed all the way to the table,” says Walter Robb, former CEO of Whole Foods and the founder of investment firm Stonewall Robb. “We’re going to see a whole explosion in the new types of foods that are coming to market.”

A report by Biodiversity International found that three-quarters of the world’s food supply comes from just 12 crops and five livestock species. That jarring lack of diversity in the average diet is changing, Robb said. We’re in a frontier where food “will come back in a way we’ve never imagined.” More than 10,000 new products are introduced to the grocery market every year, and customers Robb said are “clamoring” for something new.

“We have a disruption up and down the value chain like I have never seen,” Robb said. “Your chance to come and bring a new product to market is there.”

Robb spoke at the NOSH Live event in New York, and shared insights into where the food industry is headed. Here are Robb’s five main points.

  1. Integrated Shopping

“The integrated retail is the table stakes for the future,” Robb said. “We’re going to see the line between digital and physical is going to collapse and it’s really going to be all about the customer and how you’ll serve the customer.”

The food industry will thrive on an “extended experience,” a term Robb came up with in the ‘90s while at Whole Foods. The extended experience extends outside the four walls of the stores. The problem at Whole Foods, Robb pointed out, was the natural grocer didn’t digitize fast enough. So in 2017, Amazon bought Whole Foods in a $13.7 billion deal.

Though customers are making more digital purchases, they are not abandoning physical stores. In five years, 50-60% of business will be done via retail stores.

“The future is one that integrates humanity and technology,” Robb said. “Why? because human beings are human beings and they want connection and community and that’s simply not available online. The most successful brands today and the ones that do more physical and digital.”

He pointed to Target as an excellent integration example for modern shoppers. Shoppers can still go to the store, where Target is remodeling physical locations to enhance the in-store experience, but they can use the Target app to prepopulate a shopping list, check real-time stock and order at home for drive-up pickup.

“Data shows the customers likes to do both (online and in-store shopping),” Robb said. Brands who want a lifetime legacy need to be in both places. “The customer is clearly saying ‘Let me do what I want, when I want.’ And brands that don’t serve them in that way will not see the type of growth that they could if they would. The customer is in charge of the choices now.”

  1. Microbiome is the Future

The microbiome will “completely revolutionize the food industry” as the future of grocery retail is driven by customers who want to see authenticity with the brand they’re supporting.

Robb pointed t a New York Times article on personalized diets, “The A.I. Diet.” As more research publishes on the microbiome, personalized diets will play a huge role in shopping habits. Medicine and technology are converging with food.

  1. Create Purpose-Driven Brand

Brand leaders in the 21st Century must be authentic, vulnerable and humble. They must be purpose-driven to be successful, Robb said.

“The whole reason you’re in business is not to make money, money is a byproduct,” Robb said. “What you’re in business to do is to bring change to the world. That’s what purpose is. Purpose is the why, why do you exist as a company. You damn well better have a good answer to that question as to what you’re doing in business. You better be here for some great reason to make an impact on the world. And if you’re not playing on that level, either w your customer or your team members, you’re going to fall behind because the companies that are going to lead with some sense of purpose are going to be the companies that win in the next number of years.”

He advised brands to get fired-up about principles that support values. The company culture is a result of that principles and values, and culture is dependent on how team members feel working for the brand and customers feel buying from the brand.

“The winning formula today is road runners and roots,” Robb said. Roots ground a brand in purpose, but brands can’t cement themselves in the ground. They must be a road runner and change on a dime as the marketplace shifts.

  1. Solve Customer Confusion

The International Food Council found 80% of customers are confused on their food choices. There are dozens of food tribes dominating grocery shelves, like gluten-free, keto, paleo and Whole 30. With an overload of information, customers don’t know exactly what to buy for their desired health benefits.

Robb said one of the business opportunities for brands today is to figure out how to communicate more clearly with the consumer. Consumers want to make informed choices, but “that last mile of data has not been solved for.”

He pointed to solutions in connected homes devices like Amazon that will now populate a shopping list for the consumer based on past purchases. Consumers don’t even need to pick out what they want, their only roll will be to confirm the purchase.

  1. Natural Reigns

Organic has grown to a $65 billion industry, with a 7-8% growth rate; conventional food, meanwhile, is only growing at 1-2%. Major mainstream retailers are rushing to get into the natural food business today.

Robb said the best way for brands to get on the shelves at Whole Foods is to push the envelope. Whole Foods continues to lead the natural market, and the grocer wants to see edgy, new products with a new take.

Customers expect food brands today to be transparent, accountable and responsible. Robb said there are 2,000 natural flavors approved for use in food by the Food and Drug Administration. But Robb encouraged brands to solve that problem – use less processed ingredients and more natural ingredients, “let’s continue to lead by showing there’s a new edge in the food industry.”

Sustainability sells. Shoppers will spend up to $150 billion on sustainable CPG goods by 2021, representing an increase of between $14 billion-$22 billion. – Nielsen Data

Dietician Lisa Valente writes in Eating Well the seven must-eat fermented foods for a healthy gut. Her list features: sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, miso, tempeh and yogurt. She writes: “Fermented foods are a hot health topic—and for good reasons. These good bacteria—particularly those in our gut—may improve digestion, boost immunity and help us maintain a healthy weight. Research is still emerging on just how important these mighty microbes might be for our health, but the early results are promising. Take care of your gut, and in turn, it will take help take care of you.”

Read more (Eating Well)

One question commonly posed by consumers starting to eat fermented products: How do I incorporate fermentation into my daily meals?

Alana Holloway, founder of Fermented By Lab, provides a great overview on how she uses fermented food and drinks. Hollaway’s food diary illustrates that it’s possible to include fermentation as a key element to every meal. Her simple meals are easy, delicious and highlight ways the average consumer can pair fermented food and drink with their regular food. Her dairy is also a great example of creative marketing fermented food brands can use to showcase ways to use their food. 

Here’s Alana’s food diary, showcasing what she eats to keep her gut in good health.

Approach to food: I love to eat intuitively, according to the seasons… not only that, but according to the weather and how I’m feeling on any given day.  After a lifelong battle with eczema, I have now found the key to managing it with the right foods for my body, and a complimentary lifestyle, too.  I like to maintain a balanced, healthy gut and so eat/drink ferments every day… just as well I run a company that makes them!

Food Diary:

DAY 1 – FRIDAY

I tend to start day with about a pint of warm water. I really find it gives me immediate energy following sleep.  I’m really not a lover of cold water, so will always drink it at room temperature or warm/hot. 

I usually have breakfast about 10.30 as I struggle to eat too early in the morning.  I like to allow my body time to build up a good hunger!  Now that Spring is here, I’ve swapped my porridge for smoothies.  This morning’s is organic cooked beetroot (I cook up a batch and then freeze it for smoothies), organic frozen strawberries from last Summer, a green banana, which is a great source of prebiotic fibre, coconut yoghurt, goats milk Kefir for the all-important probiotics, Plenish cashew milk (my favourite) and a little raw honey for a some more prebiotic love! I also take an omega 3 supplement; generally speaking, I’m not a massive supplement advocate and prefer to get what I need from my diet, but as I am prone to really dry skin, I find this one helps.  

I grab a small handful of Brazil nuts as I head out the door.

At 1pm I have a chunk of goats Gouda and another pint on warm water whilst waiting for my lunch to cook.  I can tell it’s going to be a hungry day for me today! 

At 1.30, I have a lunch of sliced avocado roasted chickpeas with nigella seeds, soft boiled egg, roasted sweet potato, Fennel + Lemon Kraut from the Fermented by LAB Spring Collection, steamed broccoli & kale.

3.30 small glass of Kombucha as I need a bit of a kick!

At 7pm I have dinner – it’s lentil Dahl with Carrot + Coriander Kraut from last year’s Autumn Box (one of my favourite things about fermenting foods is getting to eat them months later!)

I drink a Golden Mylk before bed and soak some oats for tomorrow morning’s porridge… I mentioned Spring too early and hear it’s due to snow tomorrow!

DAY 2 – SATURDAY

10am – I start the day with two huge mugs of warm/hot water again and follow it with the porridge I soaked last night.  I always soak my grains/pulses/legumes to make them easier on my digestive system. My porridge toppings are roasted rhubarb, coconut yoghurt, a little raw honey and some chopped Brazil’s. 

3pm – Lunch is a chunk of goat’s milk Gouda (I can’t get enough of it!) and roasted broccoli, carrot, fennel, sweet potato and nigella seeds with a soft-boiled egg (again!)  Despite it being the weekend, I’m working and need something easy to cook which doesn’t require too much thought!

5pm – I have a bottle of Red Grapefruit + Rosemary Kefir from the Spring Box.  I’m lucky enough to be able to delve into a good selection of seasonal ferments… it means I don’t get bored with eating the same Kraut all the time!

7pm – I try to stop eating by 8pm so that I can give my digestive system a break overnight.  As I had a late lunch, I’m not overly hungry so make a beetroot, carrot (both cooked and frozen), blackcurrant, green banana and goats kefir smoothie and have a mug of chicken bone broth.

I drink a small Golden Milk just before bed.  They really relax me and as I have a history of eczema, find they really help keep my inflammation at bay.

Best piece of advice about health + wellbeing?

Don’t search for all the answers in one place.  Every day, I try to remind myself that it’s not just about a healthy diet, a good exercise regimen, good quality sleep or daily meditation practice, for example, it’s a combination of all of them that allows you to live your healthiest and happiest life.