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  • Writer's pictureGreg Fleishman

What Industry CEOs See Ahead For 2021

Updated: Jul 17, 2021

Galit Laibow | Greg Fleishman | Sarah Michelle Gellar | Foodstirs Junk-Free Bakery | Greg Fleishman CPG Investor | Founder | CEO | Board Director
Greg Fleishman CPG Investor | Founder | CEO | Board Director

In today’s newsletter – which is longer than normal due to not having published in a few weeks – we asked a handful of industry CEOs/founders the following question.

Below are their edited responses.

Bob DeBorde CEO of Suja Organic

We think one of the biggest determinants for the growth of organic in 2021 will be how two competing macro trends play out: 1) consumers’ increased focus on what goes into their bodies and how it’s produced, and 2) the continued household-level economic struggles.

It will likely vary by category, but we expect produce to continue its strong growth of 2020, and organic products that have a clear functional or wellness component should have a massive first half of 2021. This is what we’re expecting for Suja, as our new launches for Elevated Nutrients, Vitamin C and Vitamin D & Zinc shots, and Sparkling Cold Pressed Juice (with Vitamin C) are starting to take off.

Once vaccinations are distributed at a mass scale, one big question is which preventative and proactive shopping behaviors remain? We anticipate some drop-off but also believe many consumers who converted to a healthier, cleaner diet will stick with it.

On the supply and sourcing side, the volatility will remain a huge challenge for everyone, and for us, forecasting across 100+ ingredients in the face of big volume swings has proven challenging. Thankfully, our partners have been phenomenal, and we’ve had few hiccups.

Nick Green Co-Founder/CEO of Thrive Market

From a high level, I would expect to see continued growth in organic and even stronger growth in regenerative organic. This will come from consumers, who will increasingly prioritize health and better-for-you ingredients, and farmers in the supply chain shifting toward regenerative practices. We are hearing from more and more growers that they are taking steps to incorporate cover crops and create greater biodiversity on their farms.

We also have been actively participating in a number of regenerative-focused conferences and working groups that have been occurring with much greater frequency than ever before. It should be a very exciting year for organic.

Greg Fleishman Co-Founder/CEO of Foodstirs

Whereas 2020 was much about surviving, which meant constant pivoting and adjusting to entirely new shopping, eating and work habits, 2021 is the Year of Thriving – where we get to leverage this meaningful change with greater certainty and focus.

In most cases, supply chain disruptions, or imbalances, for companies have been rectified, and consumer needs and category trends are more clear. They are centered around direct-to-consumer, home delivery and time-saving meal preferences, in addition to food choices that are beneficial to immunity, mental health, weight management and environmental impact. With online purchasing becoming more prominent and permanent, physical store traffic is considerably down but still important.

As an industry, one big gaping hole for us remains: getting consumers to try new products. Due to COVID-19, retailers and brands have largely abandoned the demo as a critical marketing tool, and in 2021, we need to figure out an effective strategy to take its place. This is particularly detrimental to new brands trying to break into the marketplace, further compounded by SKU rationalization and the absence of trade shows.

Maggie Jones Patton Co-Founder of Bitsy’s

As we look into 2021, our biggest prediction in organics is the growth of “co-snacking,” as my Bitsy’s Co-Founder Gabrielle Union has coined it.

More than ever before, we’ve been in close quarters with our children, and we eat each other’s food. Families today are less about seeking out separate items to suit every member of the household and more about good things that can be shared together.

We see a need for more options that are flavor-forward and appeal to the whole family. COVID-19 brought many families who were buying organic back to the conventional grocery aisle, seeking out affordability and comfort snacking.

Now, it’s time for organics and healthier options to focus on what’s realistic when it comes to tightening budgets and foods that mom, dad and kids all are going to enjoy. Retailers will need to partner with family-focused food brands to ensure that during this time of reduced spending and increased need for broad appeal, organics will stay at the table.

Tony Antoci CEO of Erewhon

At Erewhon, we have always been about rediscovering the basics and foundation of health and wellness, and as we head into 2021, self-care is more important than ever.

While we have a very educated customer base, we are also seeing that people who have not traditionally been into health are now making it a serious priority. Organic, regenerative organic and Biodynamic products will definitely see continued growth this year, as shoppers are more conscious about what they are putting into their bodies and who is growing their food.

Supplements that focus on immunity, such as Vitamin C, elderberry and zinc, will remain incredibly popular, as well as magnesium salt baths and oils. The interest in plant-based, nutrient-dense foods is massive and increasingly important as the pandemic shows no signs of slowing down. Additionally, with people having more time to cook and be creative in the kitchen, we expect sales of organic produce to stay very strong.

Without trade shows and a changing demo environment, the last year has been hard for new organic brands to break into the marketplace. However, Erewhon is as committed as ever to supporting new brands,bringing them into our stores and educating our shoppers and team members about them. Discovery is a big reason that people shop with us, and this will certainly continue in 2021.

Birgit Cameron Head of Patagonia Provisions

Organic practices and products are poised to continue gaining significant traction in 2021. We genuinely believe that to make positive change and effectively draw down carbon, regenerative and organic need to occur together on the land.

While the Regenerative Organic Certification is the highest bar, Patagonia and Patagonia Provisions will continue to support organic farmers who are on the path to using regenerative organic practices on their farms and those who are building agroforests and diversifying their crops. Their efforts are a model for farmers across the globe who see the need to move away from chemicals and thereby respect the natural ecosystem while improving the health of their own farms and communities.

At the same time, consumers are also becoming more aware of how the food they eat and the clothes they wear relate to climate change. These shifts in consumer consciousness and healthier agricultural practices do not happen overnight, but at Patagonia and Patagonia Provisions, we see a clear path to a better future.

Emily Thomas Vice President/Managing Director of the Triple B Operating Unit (Annie’s, Cascadian Farm and Muir Glen) at General Mills

As we head into 2021, what remains clear is that consumer needs keep evolving and therefore we need to evolve with them. Most notably, we’ve seen the shift from away-from-home eating to at-home eating, and there’s acceleration around occasions like convenient meals, food that provides us indulgence and comfort, and products that offer value. Perhaps less obviously, we believe there will be a shift in how consumers think about their well-being in a post-COVID world, both physically and mentally.

Within the food and wellness space, taste still rises to the top. We anticipate the desire for healthy, convenient food options will expand coming out of the pandemic as the importance of preventative health/nutrition and personalized care will increase for consumers.

Historically, organic has been viewed as an example of purity and that will have heightened meaning as we emerge from the pandemic. Long term, there will be a more seamless integration of omnichannel solutions that offer consumers access, convenience and ease to expend less mental effort in the home – think bundles, meal kits and shopping your freezer.

Marci Zaroff Founder/CEO of ECOfashion Corp

2021 will be the year that organic cotton textiles break out.

Now that over 83% of U.S. consumers have embraced organic food (at least occasionally), the seeds of consciousness have been planted and are inevitably evolving from organic food to fiber – from “farm to table” to “farm to body” and “farm to home.”

Gerard Versteegh CEO of Tradin Organic

With customers increasingly inquiring about the environmental and social impact of products, we see that a holistic perspective on sustainability throughout the value chain is more and more demanded. Companies are being called on to proactively reduce their carbon footprint and to organize their supply chains in an ethical way.

Based on consumer demand for healthy soils and biodiversity, we expect regenerative organic agriculture to continue its growth throughout 2021 and beyond. Meanwhile, measurable proof, supported by digital technology, is necessary to substantiate sustainability claims regarding the impact of regenerative organic practices on the soil, climate and people.

Joe Ennen CEO of SunOpta

In 2021, plant-based will continue evolving to planet-based, and healthy eating will expand to values-based eating, now more than ever.

With SunOpta manufacturing private label and co-manufacturing many national brands, we also believe that there’s still plenty to be done with upcycling, particularly in plant-based. There is promising innovation of all kinds coming out of the Upcycled Food Association, and we have several proprietary strategies throughout our supply chain for plant-based secondary product streams that can be turned into fiber-rich baking ingredients or fruit-forward snack bars, for example. This year, there will be a greater emphasis on producing food instead of feed.

This content was originally published in Organic Insider.

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