I predict that 2012 will be a banner year for Organic Food Product Innovation, and those who sit on the sidelines will miss the opportunity to strike gold in this rapidly growing product segment. I predict this for several reasons - and I don’t believe quick service and fast casual chains are prepared to jump on this train leaving the station.
First, the recession has not slowed the sales growth of Whole Foods and Wild Oats, as well as smaller organic foods markets. Topline sales have continued to grow despite increased commodity prices for meat, dairy, cheese, and produce. This also implies that bottom-line margins will continue to be squeezed in 2012. Those with free discretionary spending will continue to spend money on products that can both improve their daily health and extend their activity-filled lives.
Second, there has been no abatement of new product development within leading organic food manufacturing companies. I am involved in an industry leading organization called Naturally Boulder (Boulder, Colorado). Every year Naturally Boulder holds a new product development ‘sales pitch’ night for aspiring new food product-development entrepreneurs and food marketers. This past fall, the competition field amounted to approximately 25 new product ‘pitches’ – and no one can enter two years in a row. One of the finalists was Love Grown Foods, which continues exponential growth with its rapidly expanding line of granola products. I have also seen the same level of new product growth within the organic food manufacturing and marketing firms – having consulted with one of the largest for the past year.
Third, organic foods represent one of the limited number of ways restaurant chains can differentiate themselves in the marketplace. Chipotle and Good Times restaurant chains in Denver have picked up this mantra and become successful with the natural and organic marketing focus. The challenge for large restaurant chains has always been a steady, consistent, and high quality supply. But the supply of organic foods has continued to grow with consumer demand, and become more cost effective with each passing year.
And fourth, I am taking every opportunity to expand the knowledge and organic food-development skill sets of culinary students at Johnson & Wales University. I have added two separate teaching units to the new product development quarterly class that I teach. One unit teaches aspiring chefs the process details for growers and processors to obtain government certification for their farms and processing plants. The second unit teaches the students the various organic food categories, as well as individual ingredients and products that can be incorporated into the new product development creative process. We try to log and monitor new ingredients that are certified on a yearly basis such as flavorants, leavening agents, colorants, new flours, and ancient grains. I also predict “Ancient Grains” will become another hot topic within the culinary community. And lastly each product development student is given the opportunity to develop a new product as a part of their class assignment – and many choose organic foods.
I hope I have supercharged your interest in organic foods for 2012, and I look forward to hearing about your new year organic food resolutions. We will be announcing our 3-day 2012 Organic Food Innovation class in Denver within the next two weeks. Please let us know about your interest.
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow the Food Innovation Institute website for more information on our 2012 Food Innovation Workshop listing at Johnson & Wales University in Denver.
Darrel Suderman, Ph.D., is president of Food Technical Consulting and founder of Food Innovation Institute. He has held senior R&D/QA leadership positions at KFC, Boston Market, Church's Chicken and Quiznos and led KFCs development team of Popcorn Chicken, now a $1B international product invented by Gene Gagliardi.