In a story by Michael Moss in the NY Times, it appears the globalization of our food supply has had the unintended side effect of being unable to guarantee the safety of the ingredients in the foods we eat. In fact, Con Agra couldn’t guarantee the safety of the more than 25 ingredients in one of their pot pies.

I don’t know about you, but a pie with over 25 ingredients can’t be much of a pie. I never worry about that when I go to my local bakery. Flour, water, salt, yeast, fruits or veggies. No reason for the other 15 ingredients unless it’s to give it an unlimited shelf life. All that means is that there’s nothing of nutritional value in the product. If there was, then mold or bacteria could survive. And if they won’t eat the stuff, why should you?

Most of the processed food like substances that pass for food, isn’t healthy in the first place.  It’s no surprise they can’t guarantee the ingredient safety. Does melamine in milk ring any bells? The FDA chose to keep that bit of info from consumers.

If we’re going to insist we’re too busy to get reconnected with our food – how it’s raised, where it’s grown and how it tastes, then we’re setting ourselves up for the next big food scare and we get to play the victim instead of being responsible for our own health and well being.

It’s no accident that community gardens, organic farms and farmers markets are exploding in popularity.

According to the Natural Marketing Institute, NMI Reports 2008 Health & Wellness Industry Sales at more than $112 Billion

Despite the recent economic downturn, industry still shows an impressive growth of 9%  Retail sales within the U.S. consumer packaged goods health and wellness industry reached more than $112 billion in 2008, representing growth of 9% over 2007. This figure includes sales across all retail and direct-to-consumer channels for the six categories detailed below. These findings are part of NMIs annual Health & Wellness Trends Database
(HWTD) research study, conducted in Q4 of 2008 among 5,709 U.S. households.

According to NMI President Maryellen Molyneaux, NMI research clearly shows that the current economic downturn is changing consumer behavior on many levels, including spending related to health and wellness.

So while sales in each category continue to grow, consumers are becoming more discerning and are looking for real value in their purchases and not just the perceived value. This shift in behavior will impact manufacturers and retailers not just short-term but also in the future. It’s about time consumers started voting with their pocket books. That’s the only thing a market economy responds to.

While functional foods and beverages continue to represent the largest category with 2008 sales of $40.5 billion, the second largest category saw a slight shift in the past year, from vitamins/minerals/herbal supplements to organic foods and beverages.

The category with the largest growth over the past year also shifted in 2008. Natural/organic general merchandise (including pet products, clothing and household cleaning products) saw growth of 32% over 2007. This is likely due to the mainstreaming of these products and greater availability in a number of shopping channels.

Based on consumer spending by product segment, consumer penetration/usage trends, and projected data, industry retail dollars in billions for 2008 (and growth versus 2007) are as follows:

  • Functional/Fortified Foods & Beverages : $40.5 (5%)
  • Organic Foods/Beverages: $23.6 (18%)
  • Vitamins, Minerals, Herbal & Dietary Supplements: $23.3 (7%)
  • Natural Foods/Beverages: $14.6 (4%)
  • Natural/Organic Personal Care: $8.4 (7%)
  • Natural/Organic General Merchandise: $2.0 (32%)

With the economic future unclear, NMI projects that the health and wellness industry as a whole will remain relatively stable over the next five years at approximately 7% growth each year.

More information can be found in NMIs newest consumer insights report entitled Shopping for Wellness in a Tight Economy This125-page report examines how the current economic crisis is changing consumer behavior on every level.

Consumption is being replaced with sustainability, possessions with purpose and perceived value with real value.

Current indicators show that impact of these changes will not be temporary adjustments but rather a total realignment of consumer behavior based on a reevaluation of priorities. Priorities like staying alive, avoiding disease and being filled with health and vitality to name a few.