By Ray Latif
Here’s a math problem for you: if the show floor at Natural Products Expo West 2014 encompassed over 1 million square feet, how big do you think the proverbial elephant in the room (in this case, the Anaheim Convention Center) would have to be?
Gargantuan, for sure, and for beverage exhibitors at the event, it was clear that the mammoth in the room is known as Whole Foods. The clout and sway of the natural grocer was in full display at Expo West, particularly in its quest to offer “full GMO transparency” in its stores by 2018. Speaking with dozens of beverage companies at the event, it was clear that Whole Foods was the driving force behind many of the decisions to certify products as non-GMO.
Beverage executives described Whole Foods’ buyers as offering gentle nudging and encouragement toward non-GMO certification, as opposed to giving an outright directive. However, some stated that Whole Foods had a slightly larger influence, indicating that the retailer gave explicit instructions about the placement of non-GMO stamps on product packaging.
And while most appeared to be aligned with the mission of Whole Foods, despite the relatively inexpensive cost of certification — via non-profit group The Non-GMO Project — several bemoaned the length of the process, which can take over a year to complete, according to some.
Meanwhile, a few organic beverage companies took issue with adding a non-GMO stamp to their labels, fearing that it would be redundant and confusing to consumers, as USDA Organic standards prohibit the use of GMOs. Others worried that consumers would begin to equate non-GMO with organic.
In this video, filmed on-location at Expo West, BevNET CEO John Craven and BevNET Managing Editor Ray Latif discuss much more about Whole Foods’ impact on the non-GMO movement and its effect on the beverage industry. Craven and Latif also delve into Whole Foods’ influence on product development, as well as its role in the growth of emerging beverage categories and brand innovation.
Additionally, Craven and Latif look at the vast number of brand revamps and product introductions on display at the show, many in emerging categories including cold-pressed juice (in which Expo West saw a hefty leap in the number of first-time exhibitors) and kombucha. Additionally, the pair discuss the new wave of products modeled after coconut water, such as maple water and barley water, and examines the effectiveness with which such beverages are marketed and sold.