Natural Products Marketers Grow Up

It’s amazing what has changed in natural products industry marketing during the last three years. Back when we published our first Natural Products Marketing Benchmark Report in 2011, the issues being raised around GMOs were in their infancy. The majority of marketers did not have a method for quantifying ROI of marketing programs. Marketers were far more likely to rely on their intuition rather than the data when making decisions. And while social media was firmly established in the American culture, most natural products companies were just getting their feet wet.

All that has changed. We’ve just released the SPINS & Pure Branding Natural Products Marketing Benchmark Report 2015, and if there is one overriding finding it’s that natural products marketers have matured and grown far more sophisticated in their awareness and approach to marketing.

What’s not changed is the importance that companies still place on making their key audiences aware of their values and principles.  Yes, the industry continues to be diverse in its makeup, made up of thousands of start-up, small, medium and large companies. But even as it matures, with more mergers, acquisitions, IPOs and greater channel diversity, at it’s core it’s still an industry founded on deeply held personal beliefs about the health and wellbeing of people and planet.

One of the most hopeful findings in the report is how companies, when they reach a size where their buying power has influence, are not afraid to flex their ethical muscles. In our Special Report, “Natural, GMOs, local & North American food system,” we found that the larger the company, the more likely they are to pursue greater transparency with their consumers and pressure their supply chain to avoid genetically engineered ingredients.

And if you don’t think this is a sea change, consider this fact. Back in 2011, when we asked marketers to define a “natural product,” only 1% of respondents said “not GMO.” In this year’s report 77% of respondents considered a genetically engineered fruit or vegetable to be “not natural.”

I could go on, but then I’d give away all of the findings in this year’s Natural Products Marketing Benchmark Report 2015. What I’d like to end with though is how impressed I am with how marketing has evolved within our industry. It’s far more sophisticated, more data-driven, and more versatile, but — and this is a very important but — throughout all of this growth and maturation, our industry still holds close to its heart strong values, passion and mission. It makes me proud to be a part of it all.