Year in Review: 2017 Insights Across the Food Industry

The Omega-9 Oils team traveled to several events across the country in 2017 to network with food and nutrition professionals. While the team used these opportunities to share how Omega-9 Oils can help meet needs across the food industry, we also gleaned several interesting insights we think are worth sharing.

Booming Natural Products Industry

There is yet to be a formal definition for the term “natural,” but business is booming nonetheless. According to Nutrition Business Journal, U.S. sales of natural and organic products grew 7.7 percent in 2016. Not surprisingly then, Natural Products Expo West, the world’s largest show for “natural,” organic and specialty products, saw record numbers in 2017. More than 80,000 people attended the show to visit with approximately 3,100 vendors, 500 of which were first-time exhibitors. Not only is this a 4 percent growth from 2016, this is approximately four times more attendees and double the exhibitors seen at the Institute of Food Technologist (IFT), a longstanding and popular trade show.

Growing Snack Food Category

Snacking remains popular, with 95 percent of consumers enjoying a snack each day (Technomic 2016 Snacking Consumer Trend Report). These consumers have high expectations as they look to snack food manufacturers to address a variety of factors, including nutrition attributes, ingredient lists and cravings. At SNAXPO, the team noted how the industry is answering the call. Convenience; “free from” artificial ingredients, preservatives and GMOs; and bold flavors are driving new snack formats. Additionally, snacks are used to meet several needs throughout the day, including healthier choices, performance foods and indulgent treats.

Evolving Food Manufacturing Landscape

Also at IFT, Omega-9 Oils Market Manager Mary LaGuardia noted how food processing has changed over the years. While food manufacturers always have provided consumers with safe, shelf-stable, great-tasting food that is both affordable and convenient, the path to get there has drastically changed. Consumers today desire not only healthier foods that are convenient and affordable, but they also desire transparency around how and where their food is produced. Additionally, health looks different today than in the past. The focus on reducing or eliminating fat seen in the 90s has given way to a focus on function and eliminating complicated-sounding ingredients. What has not changed is manufacturers will continue to respond to consumer demand.

Capitalizing on Trends in Foodservice, Culinary and Retail

At the International Foodservice Editorial Council (IFEC) annual conference, the Omega-9 Oils team met with editors of top industry trade publications. We also attended several sessions that discussed how successful foodservice operators are seizing popular trends for market growth. Here are a few of the takeaways:

  • Food is not just sourced locally, but now the places where consumers are choosing to dine out are reflecting the environment where they are located.
  • Great food can come from anywhere! Destination-worthy food is showing up in new places, such as hotel lobbies, theaters, gaming concepts, breweries and bars.
  • Although consumers are thinking more about what they put in their bodies, they don’t have the knowledge to consistently implement positive change and habits (more on that below).

 Clearing Up Nutrition Confusion

More than 12,000 nutrition professionals flocked to the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo™ (FNCE®) in 2017. As the Omega-9 Oils team visited with this influential group, it became apparent that even though mounting science suggests the type of fat rather than the amount is important, controversial research and media headlines have consumers confused about which fats are back and which ones should remain on the sidelines. Questions about saturated fat, particularly related to butter and coconut oil, were particularly common. (Note: The consensus of the evidence points to replacing saturated and trans fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Learn more at

Omega-9 Oils is committed to helping the food industry navigate and adapt to the constantly changing food and nutrition landscape — stay tuned to the blog in 2018 for updates on the latest news, research and trends.