As the organic food industry matures and enters the mainstream, we continue to see change and consolidation worldwide. Although growth may be slowing, the organic market continues to attract new players. Organic trade shows remain a vital opportunity for manufacturers to showcase new products - as Bruce Hoggard reports from last week's Organic Products Expo - BioFach America in Washington, DC.

In North America, organic food sales have grown an average of almost 20% per year during the past 12 years. This pattern reflects growth in Europe and, to a lesser extent, Japan. The year 2000 marked the first time that more organic food was purchased in conventional supermarkets than through other more traditional channels.

Organic food in the US is now sold to consumers through three main channels: natural foods stores, conventional grocery stores and direct-to-consumer markets. This is different from countries such as Germany, but is similar in nature to the UK.

Organic products including food are available in the US through nearly 20,000 natural foods stores and are sold in 73% of all conventional grocery stores.

Organic retail sales in the US reached US$8.5bn in 2002 - up from $1bn in 1990. In the first half of 2000, over 800 new organic products were introduced and organic market growth is forecast at 10-20% annually through 2010.

A background to Organic Products Expo - BioFach America

The newest move occurred 4 to 7 September 2003 as Organic Products Expo - BioFach America, patterned after the popular and successful shows in Nuremberg and Tokyo, was launched as a part of the 19th annual Natural Products Expo East.

This new and expanded annual event held at the Washington Convention Center highlighted leading edge organic finished food products, raw materials, market intelligence and education. There were more than 1,700 exhibiting companies and attendance was anticipated to surpass 20,000 people, providing easy access to some of the world's best natural and organic products.

The trade show also had an organic-dedicated conference programme and networking events organised in cooperation with the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF), the Organic Trade Association (OTA) and the Organic Center for Education and Promotion.

Patch Adams the keynote speaker

The keynote speaker for the conference was Patch Adams, M.D., a social revolutionary who has devoted his life to transforming the American healthcare system. His heroic tale in the health field was brought to the movie screen by Robin Williams. He portrayed Patch Adams in the movie of the same name. Adams is the founder of the Gezundheit Institute, a free health facility in West Virginia that has treated more than 15,000 patients.

During the four days, Thursday to Sunday, there were over 55 different seminars, talks and workshops delivering an array of health, wellness, and natural and organic food information. Several of the more interesting sessions included the following:

Ambitious conference programme

ABCs of Working with Brokers discussed the roles of brokers as key players in retail sales growth. The audience developed three pages of industry terminology and gained a close to hands-on experience of what a broker meeting is like. Topics discussed ranged from how to get the best deals and what support is available to how to create win-win relationships within the industry.

Organic Retail Revival: Marketing Strategies for Perishables addressed concerns over perishables and presented ideas on how to quickly create and implement collaborative sampling, merchandising and marketing projects among the deli and produce areas of the store. Once again, the session offered hands-on experience and simulated collaboration, allowing the participants to leave with materials to implement back in their stores.

In today's information age and with consumers increasingly taking a more active role in their health one of the sessions focused on Enhancing the Shopping Experience with Information. The speaker showed how to build customer loyalty and increase sales by establishing the store as an "information destination" for health, nutrition and self-care advice and alternatives.

Regulatory minefield

With the conference held in Washington, many delegates were interested in the session on International Regulation and the Impact and Implications these hold for the United States. Over the past decade, manufacturers and suppliers have faced a multitude of barriers to trade and unpredictable changes in the regulatory environment. The recent adoption of the EU Directive has been the most significant change so far.

However, many American companies are not getting involved or are very slow to address compliance. This informative session provided highlights on these major global regulatory developments, the challenges facing companies doing business in Europe and the main actions needed to help preserve those products selling in the EU market.

The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), a key player in the organic movement throughout the world, supports the show and conference.

Some novel products on show

As with many of the organic and conventional food shows many of the same companies are always present, promoting their products and services. However, there are also many new companies with interesting and, in some cases, novel products. The Washington show was no different.

One of the most popular events at food shows, and guaranteed to fuel your long hours of walking the aisles, is the taste testing of the exhibiting company's new or most popular products. In some cases the experience is rewarding, in other circumstances the sample leaves you wondering how they manage to sell any at all. Here are some of the most impressive samplings from the show.

Nature's Mighty Bites

Nature's Mighty Bites™ was sampling its natural ice cream with Omega-3 fatty acids, a product aimed at kids as a healthy alternative to other snack foods. People were also able to taste Nature's Mighty 3's™ micro encapsulated fish oil powder, which was better than the name would lead you to believe and a part of the "new" smoothies and shakes market.

Nature's Mighty Bites™ Mighty Vanilla mix provides a non-dairy soft serve ice cream. By using non-lactose whey protein in a fructose-sweetened base, the company has created an all natural soft-serve that can be compared in taste and consistency with any soft serve on the market. The other "health" note is that this soft serve has the extra added benefit of the Omega 3 fatty acids which provide a healthy, yet satisfying, product to be used as a meal or a snack.

For those who enjoy chocolate, Nature's Mighty Bites™ Mighty Chocolate mix satisfies those chocolate cravings in a non-lactose manner. There are close to 200 flavours with the more exotic being: Banana Mango Cheesecake, Citrus Cooler Cheesecake, Wild Cherry, Watermelon, and Georgia Peach.

There is also an online club children can join to help them better understand the nutritional alternatives that exist and why it is important to eat healthily.

Amazing Herbs

One of the new companies at the show, Amazing Herbs, (supplements, body care, teas) was featuring Black Cumin Seed, a herb new to North America from the Mediterranean with remarkable health benefits. Although not a "food" item, this company's products were representative of numerous other companies that were at the show promoting healthy lifestyles.

For centuries, the Black Seed herb and its oil have been used by people in Asia, the Middle East and Africa to support their health. It is an aromatic spice similar in appearance to sesame seed except black in colour, and has been traditionally used for a variety of conditions and treatments related to respiratory health, stomach and intestinal health, kidney and liver function, circulatory and immune system support, and for general overall well-being. Black Seed is also known as Black Cumin, Black Caraway Seed, Habbatul Baraka (the Blessed Seed), and by its botanical name "Nigella Sativa".

One of the products is Black Seed Herbal Honey, which comes in three formulations designed to provide soothing, energising and/or immune benefits. The products have been prepared with a selected raw natural honey and infused with synergistic herbs and pure Black Seed Oil.

Black Seed's chemical composition is very rich and diverse. Aside from its primary ingredient, crystalline nigellone, Black Seed contains 15 amino acids, proteins, carbohydrates, both fixed oils (84% fatty acids, including linolenic and oleic), and volatile oils, alkaloids, saponin, and crude fibre, as well as minerals such as calcium, iron, sodium and potassium.

Amy's Kitchen, Inc.

Amy's Kitchen is a family business, named after daughter Amy, that manufactures frozen convenience foods, canned soups, chilli, easily prepared vegetarian meals and pasta sauces. All of the products are made with the finest organic and natural ingredients. It is now one of the US's leading natural frozen food brands based on the premise of providing convenient and tasty natural vegetarian meals for people who appreciate good food, but are often too busy to cook "from scratch."

The company's first product back in 1987 was a vegetable potpie, which became an instant success. Now 16 years later Amy's has created over 60 frozen meals, including pizzas, pocket sandwiches, potpies, entrées, snacks and whole meals. In addition, it recently added a line of canned soups and chilli and bottled pasta sauces.

One of the more popular items is the Rice Crust Cheese Pizza. It was developed as customers, not able to tolerate wheat, kept asking for a pizza with a gluten free crust. After many attempts, Amy's came up with a light, tender rice crust and topped it with its own special Italian sauce and mozzarella cheese.

Another popular item is the family size Veggie Loaf consisting of four slices of loaf covered with a generous portion of gravy. The loaf is made with organic vegetables and grains and offers a quick answer to the question, "So what's for dinner tonight?"

The newest members of the Amy's Kitchen family are pasta sauces in three flavours: Wild Mushroom, Low Sodium Marinara and Pomodoro Zucca.

Everything is grown organically without using insecticides and other chemicals. In addition, everything is vegetarian. No meat, fish, poultry or eggs are used in any product. Cheeses do not contain animal rennet or animal enzymes. For the lactose-intolerant and those who prefer not to eat dairy, there are many non-dairy/lactose free, no-cholesterol dishes. Finally, Amy's products are also GMO-free.

Amy's products are widely distributed and are available in natural food stores, supermarkets, groceries and selected club stores throughout the US and Canada.

Sweet toothed Bruce

As many readers already know, I am one of many who have a sweet tooth and are drawn instinctively to sweet foods. I was not disappointed as this show offered numerous booths where the opportunity to address this sweet craving was met.

The following companies and their products came to the rescue of my sweet tooth.

Boulder Brownie Co

The Boulder Brownie Company originally started in Boulder, Colorado, thus leading to the product's name. After over 70 different batches, today's brownie recipe was created. The company has since moved to Connecticut where it continues to enjoy success.
Boulder Brownies™ are made from a combination of certified organic, all-natural ingredients and European chocolates. The choices include the Original; Classic Munchie® pecan brownie; Boulder Express™ espresso brownie; the Boulder Blondie™; the Rocky Mountain Road®; Raspberry Brownie; and finally the Mountain Munchie® peanut butter brownie.

All Boulder Brownies™ are made from six basic all-natural ingredients: the finest Belgian chocolate, eggs, wheat flour, grade AA butter, pure vanilla extract & unbleached, unrefined sugar. Then each flavour choice has special ingredient(s) added, giving them their unique taste.

Endangered Species Chocolate Co.

Another unique company, producing a quality, healthy product while making an environmental statement, is the Endangered Species Chocolate Company. They are quick to state, this is " where your deepest chocolate cravings and your environmental conscience can be satisfied in a single bite." Almost as good as no cavities or calories.

Although not the first company, and definitely not the last, to tie the environment or animals into their product, the company's goal is to use chocolate as a medium to spread a positive environmental message. The company donates 10% of its profits to environmental organisations that protect endangered animals and their habitats. This is also one of the few companies that have discovered that organic chocolate does not have to taste like wallpaper paste as it tastes better than many of the so-called "gourmet chocolates" currently in circulation.

A focal part of its advertising and marketing campaign is its unique packaging, featuring endangered animals. Two of the more striking designs in its four-part Baby Bar collection are the Organic Koala bar (1.4oz dark chocolate and cherries) and the Organic Snow Leopard - also 1.4oz but this time made of milk chocolate and mocha.

There is also a line of 3 oz chocolate bars with 16 types of wrappers with 12 different flavours. The Dolphin bar is Belgian Milk Chocolate and dried cherries; the Harp Seal bar is smooth Belgian White Chocolate while the Rainforest bar is Belgian Dark Chocolate and Deep Forest Mint.

Then there is the Organic Milk Chocolate Bug Bites. In each box, there are 64 individual pieces each with a Bug Trading Card. There are several flavours including Dark Chocolate and Dark Chocolate Chimp Mints. The company highlights the benefits of having helpful insects in the garden as opposed to using pesticides and chemicals. There are 48 trading cards and fascinating facts about insects.

A gift box sure to illicit a comment and appreciation is the Organic Milk Chocolate Lady Bug Gift Box. This re-useable ladybug gift box is filled with 20 organic milk chocolate Bug Bites. These bite-sized treats also contain the collectible insect trading cards featuring incredible close-up photos of insects and cool bug facts.

Echo Farm Puddings

Echo Farm Puddings are all natural, premium puddings made with rBGH-free, Certified Humane milk, available in 6 oz. single serves and the 1 lb family size tubs.

There are over 11 different varieties available, with several of them being only available during certain seasons during the year. The choices include: Rice Pudding; Tapioca Pudding; Indian Pudding; Coffee Caramel Tapioca Pudding; Chocolate Pudding; Butterscotch Pudding; Vanilla Pudding; Spiced Pumpkin Pudding (seasonal); Coconut Cream Pudding (seasonal); Eggnog Pudding (seasonal); and Maple Pudding (seasonal).

An important and impressive aspect of Echo Farm Pudding is that they were the first dairy in the United States to qualify for the Certified Humane label for the humane treatment of their farm animals. Only a handful of farms nationwide have qualified to receive this label. In an interesting side note, Echo Farm names each of their 80+ cows, in fact, they say they are treated like members of the family.

Heading into fall season, the Spiced Pumpkin is a seasonal favourite. All the flavour of pumpkin pie and a great topping for apples, an awesome dip for cookies, and a simple no-bake pie.

Echo Farm Puddings' natural, farm-fresh guarantee is based on the fact the products are cooked to creamy perfection in its own farm kitchen and they use milk from its own herd of registered Jersey and Milking Shorthorn cattle, which means no growth hormones either. The puddings are kosher and gluten free.

Raincoast Trading

This Canadian firm is located in Delta, British Columbia and produces all natural, wild seafood products. The products originate from wild, migrating stocks of healthy, resident Albacore tuna, sockeye and pink salmon that have evolved over centuries to thrive in the ocean and rivers of the Canada's rugged North Pacific. All of the products come from ecologically responsible and environmentally sustainable fisheries.

With the public becoming more health conscious, there is an increased awareness of the numerous health benefits associated with including salmon as a regular meal. Wild salmon is one of the best sources of omega 3 fatty acids, a beneficial fat found in the natural oils in fish. Research shows that these fats help maintain healthy brain functions, reduce the chances of getting cancer and help reduce the build up of plaque in the arteries that leads to heart attacks and strokes. The difference with farmed salmon is that farmed salmon contains lower levels of the Omega 3 fats and higher levels of the unhealthy saturated fats.

Raincoast's wild salmon usually spend two to five years feeding on wild plankton and krill that naturally changes their flesh to the natural and famous red colour.

To preserve its natural flavour, as well as to ensure nothing but healthy fish is sold to the consumer, Raincoast's salmon remain in a natural state once they are caught. No antibiotics or hormones are added, neither are the fish genetically modified in any way.

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Road's End Organics

There were several new products introduced at the show including this company's Organic Gravy Mix which comes in three varieties: Golden, Shitake Mushroom and Savory Herb. The product is USDA Certified Organic, gluten free, and vegetarian/vegan.

This new product builds on Road's End Organics' specialisation in creating delicious, dairy-free alternatives to the consumer's favourite comfort foods.

The company's cheese alternative, referred to as Chreese (sounds like trees), is the main stay of its five dairy-free, organic, lactose-free, cholesterol-free, and vegan boxed macaroni and cheese alternatives. In fact, Dairy-Free Mac & Chreese products are the only completely vegan, organic, lactose free, and cholesterol free, boxed macaroni and cheese alternatives on the market.

The noodles are made from semolina, whole wheat, or brown rice. The appearance of the 123z & Chreese 4 Kidz is more orange and has less garlic than the others. Other choices include: SHELLS & CHREESE, Semolina Shells - Original Chreese; 123'z & CHREESE, Semolina Numbers - Orange Chreese; 4 KIDz MAC & CHREESE, Whole Wheat Elbow Macaroni - Original Chreese; MAC & CHREESE, Brown Rice Mac - Gluten Free Alfredo Style Chreese; PENNE & CHREESE Brown Rice Penne - Gluten Free Chreese.

Chreese can now replace the cheese in all your favourite cheese dishes. Chreese can be used in grilled Chreese, Fake n Chreese subs, steamed vegetables, potatoes, lasagnes, pizzas, subs, eggplant parms, and crackers. It is easy to prepare requiring only boiling water and a food processor to blend the Chreese and water. Several packets can be made at a time and stored in the refrigerator for 10-14 days in what is referred to as 'Chreese Whiz' form. It can be spread on sandwiches and crackers, or thinned out with more water to pour on pizzas, lasagne and steamed vegetables.

Kettle Cuisine, Inc.

Kettle Cuisine, a known and respected soup producer, introduced its new certified organic fresh refrigerated soups on 29 June at the Fancy Foods Show in New York City. With the new soup line being available to consumers this fall, the Washington Show was both timely and important in generating a higher level of interest.

With more than fifteen years of experience making freshly prepared conventional soups for top restaurants, Kettle has also entered the single-serve, fresh refrigerated soup market. The regular soups, including over 60 varieties, are conveniently sold in microwaveable ten-ounce bowls, ideal for a quick lunch or an afternoon snack in just two minutes. One of the new creations is the Hot and Sour Soup.

The company's new organic soup varieties include Carrot Ginger, Potato & Leek, and Roasted Vegetable and are also offered in convenient single-serving microwaveable bowls. Kettle Cuisine will be expanding its organic line, based on initial interest, to include additional varieties during the coming year.

Kettle Cuisine has also launched a family sized 24 oz container.

Coming up in the organics world

In conclusion, as we enter the fall and winter seasons, the number of food shows, both organic and conventional, increases dramatically. In fact, many companies would need to clone its personnel to attend each one of them. Here in a capsulated form are several of these shows to mark on your calendar.

  • IFHS 2003 - 10-13 September, Bangkok, Thailand
  • FHC 2003 - 16-19 September, Shanghai, China
  • FHM 2003 - 24-27 September, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • BioFach Brazil - 25-26 September, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • BioFach Japan - 9-11 October, Tokyo, Japan (note: changed from the previous December dates last two years)
  • ANUGA - 11-15 October, Cologne, Germany
  • Natural Products Organic Asia - 5-7 November, Singapore
  • Natural Products Expo Asia - 3-5 December, Hong Kong
  • HOFEX 2003 in Hong Kong was moved because of SARS to 10-13 February, 2004
  • BioFach - 19-22 February, Nuremberg, Germany
  • FoodEx Japan 2004 - 9-12 March, Tokyo, Japan
  • Natural Products Expo West - 4 to 7 March, Anaheim, United States
  • Food Asia - 20-23 April, Singapore
  • Natural Products - 21-23 April, London, England
  • Organic Trade Association - 2 to 4 May, Chicago, United States
  • Natural Products Expo Europe - 15 to 17 June, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

I hope to see you all at ANUGA in just over four weeks.

By Bruce Hoggard, correspondent