Last week the Mercer Foods team attended and exhibited at the largest, most dynamic food show in the U.S.: Natural Products Expo West. All of us were struck by the incredible sense of energy and optimism among the attendees, exhibitors, guest speakers, and key stakeholders at Expo West. The show is still fresh on my mind, and I’d like to offer a few key observations to our friends and the Mercer community.

1. The natural/organic/healthy products sector is booming

Mercer Foods Freeze Dry ProductsAccording to Nutrition Business Journal, the sector of natural/organic/healthy foods now accounts for 70 percent of the growth of the entire U.S. food industry, even though this sector still only represents 17 percent of sales.

Several research firms concluded that natural foods is a rapidly expanding sector as consumers reject artificial ingredients and embrace natural alternatives. We are happy to report that everything we do at Mercer Foods fits beautifully into the cleaner foods revolution sweeping the U.S. food economy.

2. America is rapidly “snackifying”

Americans are increasingly getting their daily nutrition through multiple snacking experiences rather than traditional sit-down meals.

That’s especially true among younger consumers, as kids get nearly half of their calories from snacks — be it fruits, vegetables, proteins, whole grains, or indulgent items. Some mistakenly think that this consumption is purely “junk food,” but nutritionists have seen that many snacking items have the same nutrient benefits as traditional sit-down meals.

At the Expo show, we saw literally hundreds of different companies offering tasty, nutritious, satisfying foods in portable and snackable formats.

3. Clean label foods rule

Expo West has always been the home turf for natural, organic, gluten free, non-GMO, and other clean label food options.

What’s new is that the overall U.S. food industry is trending toward the place where the Expo West natural companies like Mercer Foods have always been. Even older, well-known legacy food brands are hurriedly reformulating to remove the artificial ingredients and chemically derived substances that taint their products. To them, we in the natural, clean label food sector say: “Come on in! The water’s fine!”

4. Fruit and veggie snacks are hot

The Mercer Foods booth at Expo West 2016.As we walked the vibrant rows and aisles of the Expo show, we were struck by the huge number of innovative fruit and veggie snack brands of all forms, sizes, shapes, and flavors. From beet chips to apple crisps to pea straws and everything in between, fruits and veggies were everywhere.

At the Mercer booth, we offered samples of our fruits and veggies, including several innovative new products. We’re happy to report all of our goods received great feedback, and a number of retailers asked us to follow up with more samples and a potential distribution in their stores.

5. Authenticity and sustainability are essential

Healthy food brands need to walk the walk and show — not just tell — the inspiring story of how we provide our foods to the public.

At Mercer Foods, our sustainability comes to life in in several ways:

  • Solar energy: A 5-acre, 1-megawatt solar field supplies up to 60 percent of our electrical needs, during peak production periods.
  • Water conservation: We reduced water usage by 72 percent at our Modesto facility by restructuring one system.
  • Carbon reduction and emissions: We’ve created a whopping 85 percent reduction in carbon emissions.
  • Job creation: We’re proud to provide 250 good paying jobs with generous benefits in an economically depressed area. We also support the local community with the “time, talent, and treasure” of our leaders and team.

The success of events like Natural Products Expo West make it clear: Americans don’t just want tasty, health-conscious foods and clean label options. We also want to know for sure that the food brands we buy uphold authentic and genuine values, while adhering to significant programs of sustainability. That’s a platform we plan to always uphold here at Mercer Foods. Check out our growing list of products and services to see for yourself.