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.”

Farmhouse Culture is retooling their packaging, moving away from what the CEO calls “natural food cliches.” Using consumer research as their guide, the fermentation brand is using “always organic” on their labels, indicating quality to shoppers. Farmhouse Culture is also decreasing their emphasis on probiotics because, though shoppers want products with digestive health benefits, they’re confused over how to achieve digestive health. The Wisconsin-based brand makes sauerkraut, fermented veggie drinks and sauerkraut chips.

Read more (Nosh)

As more people battle digestive problems, they’re turning to brands offering gut health solutions. Digestive health is the third most sought after health benefit in the latest International Food Information Council Food & Health Survey, behind weight loss and energy.

Though it’s a hot topic, it’s a space challenged with unsupported health claims and confusing ingredient additives. During a panel hosted by Food Navigator, four industry leaders shared insight into the growing gut health category.

“What we’ve learned is that many of our consumers come into our brand typically with serious, long term digestive health challenges. Bloating, regularity challenges, IBS,” said Mitchell Kruesi, senior brand manager for Goodbelly, which creates probiotic drinks and snacks. “They’ve tried supplements in the past, but weren’t super enthusiastic about them because often times taking a supplement felt medicinal to them. After that, they continue to seek out other probiotic options that are both effective, but also food-based so that it’s easy to fit in their routine.”

Demystifying Probiotics

Plagued with health issues and fed-up with pills, consumers are desiring food brands that aid digestive health. Flavor, though, is key.

“That delicious taste…it sets up an everyday usage routine, which is critical with probiotics,” Kruesi said.

Probiotics is a confusing territory for consumers. Should probiotics be consumed in pills or as a strain added to food? How much should be taken?

Elaine Watson, Food Navigator editor, quoted GT Dave, founder of GT Kombucha: “In my mind, anything raw and fermented deserves to use the term ‘probiotic.” Watson asked the panelists if there’s a perception that all fermented foods contain probiotics because they contain live, active cultures – and should food advertising probiotics be verified by clinically proven studies?

“I think consumers are quite confused still around the whole topic, in all honestly. Live, active cultures are used to make fermented food beverages – but unlink probiotics, they’re typically not studied and shown to provide a health benefit,” said Angela Grist, Activia US marketing director. Really in order to be considered a probiotic, they would need to meet the criteria of survival and research-validated health benefits and also this point around strain specificity.”

Grist said probiotics need to survive the passage through the digestive track to the colon. Activia has five survival studies showing the benefits of probiotics.

Ben Goodwin, co-founder of Olipop, added he’s conducted genetic assays around the underlying culture banks of fermented food and beverages and “there have definitely been organisms in the culture banks which are deleterious for human health. So not everything that’s fermented is automatically good for human health, there’s all sorts of different biological modes that organisms can interact with each other and some become parasitic or become determinantal to your probiotic when consumed, so something to keep in mind.”

Note that the panel did not feature a raw, fermented food brand; the companies included on the panel all add probiotic strains to their food and drink product.

In a separate interview with The Fermentation Association, Maria Marco, professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology at the University of California, Davis, said there is a lot of confusion around probiotics, even among industry representatives. Marco, though, agrees with Grist and Goodwin. She says clinical studies on fermented foods are necessary.

“Although it might be possible to separate out the individual components of foods for known health benefits (e.g. vitamin C), the benefits of many foods are likely the result of multiple components that are not easily separated,” Marco said. “Yogurt consumption is a great example of a fermented food that, through longitudinal studies, was shown to be inversely associated with CVD risk.”

In one of Marco’s studies at UC Davis titled “Health benefits of fermented foods: microbiota and beyond,” Marco and her research associates concluded that fermented foods: are “phylogenetically related to probiotic strains,” “an important dietary source of live microorganisms,” and the microbes in fermented foods “may contribute to human health in a manner similar to probiotics.” The study adds: “Although only a limited number of clinical studies on fermented foods have been performed, there is evidence that these foods provide health benefits well-beyond the starting food materials.”

Educating Consumers

The panel said that the food industry is responsible for displaying integrity in their marketing on probiotic benefits.

“We believe it’s critical for leading brands in the space…to really educate consumers on, first, what probiotics are,” said Kruesi with Goodbelly. Consumers are seeking out probiotics for a specific health benefit, but most don’t know what strain they need to address their issue, he noted.

Probiotics are live microorganisms that aid the digestive system by balancing gut bacteria.

Currently, the demographic of consumers buying products geared toward gut health are millennial females in coastal cities. Both Activia and Olipop sell to more women than men (Activia customers are 60 percent female and 40 percent male; Olipop customers are 55 percent female and 45 percent male).  

Goodwin said Olipop is hoping to tap into the rapidly declining soda market. Soda is a $65 billion industry, with 90 percent household penetration. But more consumers are turning to healthier options than unnatural, sugar-filled soda.

“We’ve tried to take on the extra responsibility as a brand of formulating something that’s spun forward, delicious and really approachable so that we can meet a real health need in a way that’s actually supported by research,” Goodwin said. “(Olipop) is not only low sugar, low calorie, it also has this digestive health function but obviously doesn’t taste like vinegar because it’s not a kombucha.”

Solving Digestive Stress

Products by Activia, Goodbelly, Olipop and Uplift Food (the fourth panel member) are “meant to be a mass solution for the lack of fiber prebiotics and nutritional diversity in the modern diet,” Goodwin said. Fiber contains prebiotics, which aid probiotics.

The USDA’s dietary guidelines recommend adult men require 34 grams of fiber, while adult women require 28 grams of fiber (depending on age). The reality, though, is that most Americans get about half the recommended fiber a day, only 15 grams. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 60-70 million Americans are affected by digestive diseases.

Compare that to the diet of hunter-gatherers, who eat about 100-150 grams of fiber each day and maintain incredibly healthy guts or microbiome. The microbiome is the community of commensal microorganisms in our intestines, fed by fiber, probiotics and prebiotics.

“As it stands now, basically we’re putting in a starvation system for a lot of the microorganisms currently in your gut,” Goodwin said. “The average industrialized consumer has about 50 percent less diversity and abundance of beneficial microorganisms than the hunger-gatherers alive on the planet tonight.”

Future of Gut Health Products

Grist with Activia said probiotics need to be consumed in adequate, regular amounts to provide health benefits, or else probiotics will not consume the digestive track.

Kara Landau, dietitian and founder for Uplift Foods which makes prebiotic foods, added that each individual has a unique bacterial make-up, and providing diverse food to support the microbiome is critical.

Landau said the future of gut health probiotics will be selling a specific probiotic strain, one that a consumer can target for their desired health benefit. Prebiotics – “the fuel for the probiotics” – are also key, and a new part of the digestive health puzzle that brands need to communicate and simplify for consumers.

“Prebiotics are still very much in their infancy when it comes to consumer understanding,” Landau said. “Seeing them alongside probiotics enhances the clarity of their benefits.”

Fermented foods are the most popular menu trend, increasing 149% on restaurant menus in 2018. As customers focus on wellness and gut health, they are ordering more naturally preserved foods in restaurants. – Upserve

The creative genius behind Noma’s Fermentation Lab, David Zilber says one of the best parts of fermenting is “to get very nerdy and go really deep and taste the whole Patheon of flavors that the microbial world produces.”

Zilber, author of “The Noma Guide to Fermentation” with Noma founder René Redzepi, spoke to Science Friday about his extensive knowledge of the food science craft. When Zilber started at Noma in 2014, he had extensive experience working in high-end restaurants. He had made kimchi working in an Asian restaurant and cooked with amazing soy sauce imported from Japan, but he never gave a second thought as to where the ingredients came from. At Noma, Redzepi noticed Zilber “had a knack for science…I was usually the gut that had the far too detailed answer,” Zilber says laughing as he describes answering colleague’s food questions. Redzepi movied Zilber to the fermentation lab, a world-famous lab that has helped secure Noma’s Michelin ranking as the 2nd best restaurant in the world.

In the radio interview, Zilber details the fermenter’s roll as a scientist, gives advice on preventing mold and shares why he thinks everyone should have a koji started on their counter. Below are highlights from Zilber’s interview with Science Friday host, Ira Flatow.

What is fermentation?

Zilber: The most succinct way I can define fermentation, in Layman’s term, is it’s the transformation of one ingredient into another by way of a microbe. If you imagine you start out with cabbage, then you get lactic acid bacteria to grow in and alongside your cabbage, in two or three week’s time, you end up with sauerkraut. It’s not the same as it was going in. You’ve cultivated — cultured really — this microorganism in your container with your cabbage. And low and behold, this transformation has taken place.

The Noma book says there’s a fine line between rot and fermentation.

Zilber: The rest of the analogy is that, as a fermenter, there’s actually three people in play in the definition of fermentation: the ingredients, the vegetables or the food stuff, the microbes, but also the person whose acting on that situation and actually wiling the ferment into existence. As the fermenter, you’re kind of the bouncer outside of the nightclub. The guy with the velvet rope, the big muscly dude, and you’re deciding who gets into the club and makes a great evening where everyone is sipping champagne and beautiful people all around and all the drunkards and rowdy boys stay outside. So that velvet rope that you use as a fermenter, those are all sorts of control points. Whether that be salt or access to oxygen or temperature or PH and acidity levels, these are all things you have at your disposal as a fermenter to make sure you’re actually fermenting and not rotting. Rot’s a club where everyone gets in; fermentation is where the party is popping.

Take us through lactic acid bacteria and fermentation.

Zilber: Fermentation, it’s one of the simplest processes you could undertake. By adding a little bit of salt to let’s say were talking like sauerkraut. You have your cabbage, you shred it to rupture the cabbage cells, and it makes it easy for bacteria to get inside there. Now lactic bacteria are all around us. They live on your skin, they’re on the skins of fruits and vegetables, they’re basically ever present in our environment. And as you add salt to that shredded cabbage, you’re making sure that any malevolent microbes — things that might cause the mixture to rot — are kept at bay. Salt is a really great anti-microbial, but lactic acid bacteria have a little bit of resistant to it, they can tolerate salt up to a certain point. So, you kind of clear the playing field for lactic acid bacteria to do their thing. They start consuming the carbohydrates and sugar in that cabbage and in doing so they leave something else behind, and that something else is an exclusionary chemical. That’s lactic acid. It sours the mixture and then makes it even harder for different things to grow. And overtime, that fermentation process peters out, they consume as much sugar as they can, the PH drops because of all the lactic acid they’ve produced, you have sour cabbage literally translated from German sauerkraut.

What’s the difference between pickled and fermented?

Zilber: Anyway you break it down, a pickled product is fermented. Now there’s two routes to picking — you can either do a quick pickle, which is making vinegar and then boiling your vinegar with a bit of salt and sugar and spices and then pouring that over your vegetables, or you can sour your vegetables into a pickle. Now the difference is there’s two different acids at play in there. With a quick pickle, a vinegar pickle, you’re using acetic acid. But with a sour pickle, you’re using lactic acid. So, a vinegar pickle, you have to first make the vinegar, and that is the sugars of fruits first transformed into alcohol by yeast and then another fermentation process happens. You have acetic acid bacteria, another ever present bacteria that is floating on dust in the air that will settle on an open bottle of wine and eventually sour it into vinegar. That gets poured over your vegetables, whether that’s carrots or radishes or cucumbers, and the PH drops so much so that its effectively preserved.

Lactic acid fermentation, the sour pickle, that’s the process I just described with sauerkraut, you’re getting it all to happen at once, you’re getting that bacteria to grow in and around the vegetable you’re looking to ferment, and it sours the brine, it sours the plant matter itself, and in one shot you have a pickle you can keep in your fridge for months.

Does fermentation always produce alcohol as a byproduct?

Zilber: No, it does not. There are many different types of fermentation, and some types of fermentation have nothing to do with alcohol at all. Now a biochemist might say, technically, that’s wrong because the very strict, textbook definition of fermentation is the transformation of glucose into ethanol in an enzymatic pathway by yeast. But, in the real world, in the much broader sense, as I said there’s all sorts of different metabolites or byproducts that you end up with in fermentation. Sometimes its sugar or MSG, the actual flavor of umami. Sometimes its alcohol. Other times it’s acids. So there’s a whole plate of different end products in the world of fermentation. And the more you understand it, the more you can kind of paint with these flavors and really tweak the world of food to your will.

What are are your recommendations for someone getting into fermentation?

Zilber: For the novice, start with the things you like eating before you start making things you’ve never really had before, before you try and get into the first half into the process of making soy sauce, start with something you really like eating, if you love pickles on your hot dogs, make pickles for the first time. It’s really easy. It’s something you can do on your kitchen counter, you can watch it happen before your eyes. For a citizen scientist who wants to go a little deeper, I think it’s really fun to take like craft brewing and really try to understand the world of yeast, which there really are like tens of thousands of different varieties that all have these different flavor profiles.

And the coolest thing about fermenting at home, and really getting into it and getting really nerdy with it, is you almost get to taste places on earth in your own garage or in your own apartment. You can get yeasts from Belgium and taste a piece of history because these yeasts have been cultivated in the rafters of abbeys that Belgian monks are famed for making their beers in. So it is really cool to get very nerdy and go really deep and taste the whole Patheon of flavors that the microbial world produces. But that’s one of the funest parts about fermenting. Once you start making fermenter friends, people are just sharing culture and having a good time and you get to taste a little big or someplace else.

What are you excited about in fermentation?

There’s a lot of things that people in the world of fermentation know really well, that’s because all of these ferments that we consume on the regular — whether it’s chocolate or coffee or pickles or wine — these are all very traditional products that have been passed down through generations over hundreds of years, that’s why we still make them today. But in the same way that that makes fermentation amazing, I also think of the way pharmaceutical companies send out teams of scientists into the Amazon jungle to find a rare type of mushroom that might produce some type of miracle drug that will change the face of the pharmaceutical industry. I wish there was someone like that in the world of fermentation, looking for that rare microbe that would produce a flavor no one has ever tasted yet.

What exactly is kombucha?

Zilber: Kombucha is a sweet and sour microbial tonic, I guess you could call it. But folklore goes back to an ancient Korean physician that would travel around Asia, again I don’t even know when in history this would have taken place, but that this physician would brew this drink and kind of heal people with it. Kombucha is basically sweetened tea that is then fermented in a symbiotic way by yeast, which converts the sugar into alcohol, and then acetic acid bacteria that convert that alcohol immediately into acetic acid, the acid that you taste in vinegar, like white vinegar. Now if you drink kombucha and you buy it off the store shelf, sometimes it might taste really vinegary and that is probably because, in my opinion, it’s over fermented. The thing you have to understand about fermentation is fermentation is cooking, it’s just cooking that happens much more slowly. So just in the same way you can overcook a piece of chicken by roasting it in a pan for too long, you can also over ferment something like a kombucha and make it too sour by letting it ride out on your kitchen counter for three weeks instead of two. And sometimes if you taste a kombucha and you’re like “Oh, this it a little hard to get down,” try making it yourself with some of the guidelines in the book and you might find that’s its really, really pleasant to drink.

Are there live probiotics in kombucha?

Zilber: There can be. Kombucha can be pasteurized, just like you know milk can be pasteurized or canned goods can be pasteurized. You can heat it and kill everything in it and not really affect the taste that much. If they say that there are live cultures in it, it means that it was fermented and nothing was really done to it after it was put in a bottle. Now there’s a lot of conflicting information about kombucha out there. And I’ve read a lot of pretty hardcore studies that say, well, a lot of this is a bit bunk. But at the end of the day, I’d probably say that drinking kombucha is probably better for you than drinking a can of Coca-Cola.

How do you handle mold in homemade kombucha?

Zilber: That is something you are constantly trying to fight back, especially when you lacto-ferment in something like a crock. There are so many variables that go into making a successful ferment. How clean was your vessel before you put the food in there? How clean were your hands, your utensils? How much salt did you use? How old was the cabbage you were even trying to ferment in the first place? Every little detail is basically another variable in the equation that leads to a fermented product being amazing or terrible. It’s a little bit like chaos theory, it’s a little bit like a butterfly flapping its wings and Thailand and causing a tornado in Ohio. But with lots of practice, you’ll begin to understand that, if it was 30 degrees that day, maybe things were getting a little too active, maybe the fermentation was happening a little bit too quickly. Maybe I opened it a couple times more than I should of and it was open to the air instead of being covered. So there’s lots of variables.  But I would say that, if you’re having a lot of trouble with mold, just up the salt percentage by a couple percent. It will make for a saltier sauerkraut, but it will actually help to keep those microbes at bay.

In the book, you say koji is indistinguishable from magic. What is koji?

Zilber: It’s the biggest microbe you’ve never heard of it. Koji is responsible for everything tasty that comes out of east Asia. From China to Korea to Vietnam to especially Japan, it is a mold, a helpful mold called aspergillus oryzae. It is responsible for turning the starches in rice and barley and all sorts of grains into sugar. And it’s turning the protein in those same grains into the flavor umami. It’s responsible for soy sauce, for sake, for rice wine vinegar, for miso and it can be used in all sorts of novel and inventive ways as well. But you never see it as a finished product because it usually is kind of the first step in that process. I liken it to the step of molting barley when you make beer or whiskey. That’s basically how ancient Asia’s civilization came about that process of turning grains into something sweet that you can then ferment with yeast. They found a mold instead of finding the process of molting, and it’s absolutely remarkable for the flavors it brings to the table themselves.

How do you get koji?

Zilber: There’s a line that I say when people ask “How do start growing koji.” All life comes from life, all life comes from cells. At the end of the day, everything living on earth today has been an unbroken chain of succession for three and a half billion years, and koji is no exception. If your kid wants a golden retriever puppy for Christmas, you have to find a golden retriever mom. And it’s the same for koji, you’re going to have find a koji breeder and actually get some spores from them. We buy ours from a laboratory in japan, and we have them shipped over to Copenhagen.

Americans annually consume 387 million pounds of sauerkraut, or about 1.5 pounds per person. Approximately 330 million pounds of cabbage are grown each year in the U.S.

– Pickle Packers International

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)