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IDDBA 2013: WFM Leads the Way for 'Natural'

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Like in the meat case, the label of “all natural” has infiltrated the dairy, deli and bakery departments. For evidence of this, one only has to look around the IDDBA show expo floor. I noticed most of the products with all natural claims lived in a pleasing tannish, earthy colored package.

As there isn’t a government-enforced definition of natural, I asked the suppliers what their definitions were. Several folks couldn’t really tell me in a succinct manner, but the ones who could had an interesting response: “We use Whole Foods’ definition because our products are offered there.”

There is no denying the influence of this natural foods’ giant.

As products have been transitioning to GMO-free, there have been some adjustments to make.

The company California Lavash, which offers different kinds of ethnic flatbreads, said its move to source non-GMO ingredients as well as unbleached flour did cost more, but was well worth it. To compensate for the increased costs, the company decreased product size somewhat and increased the price a little.

Customers have been willing to pay more for these attributes, a spokesperson told me.

As I went from booth to booth, I was surprised how conscious and vocal suppliers were about sourcing and sustainability. Even Parker Products, a company that provides toppings and ice cream mix-ins, had a sign noting that its custom products could be produced as gluten-free, halal, kosher, natural, Organic and GMO-free.

When I asked the spokesperson at palm oil distributer Western Pacific Oil, about the environmental concerns related to palm oil, he quickly opened a brochure to a list of logos. The first logo was for RSPO, which means the company sustainably sources its product, he told me. He added this certification also means orangutans are left safe and sound.

The bar is being set high for sourcing and ingredient information. Retailers and suppliers who aren’t already on board will soon have to be in order to compete.

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