Organic trend hunting: a report from BioFach 2014

By Katharine Herringer, co-founder of Multibird Branding Inc.

If you’re unfamiliar with BioFach, it’s the world’s largest organic trade show. This year, marked the 25th anniversary of the event and drew and impressive crowd of 42,000 trade buyers from 134 countries.

Within the 9 halls of vibrant, oversized booths of organic food and skin care companies, there was representation from all continents. An excellent opportunity for countries to show off the best organic goods they have to offer. Dried organic fruits from Colombia, Peru and Mexico, flower oils from Morocco, skin care made by priests from Romania, coconut products from Thailand and mountains of olive oil from Spain and Italy. And of course the Canadian pavilion with a few of our own organic brands, with billboard and all at the metro station.
Italy even had an entire food court sponsored by Bio Italia, with a lineup a block long, hungry trade-show goers waited to grab a primo, secondo and even an organic tiramisu for dessert. All washed down, of course, with a vino rosso biologico. And yes, this was just lunch. Long live the Mediterranean diet.

The trends:
Beyond all the wonderful foods, natural fiber-designed pavilions and fashionable crowd, certain tendencies and ideas stood out throughout the show.

1. Real food, served fresh
With the size of the natural products in North America hovering around the 90-billion mark, and a large percentage products still being ‘almost’ non-perishables, at Biofach there was a real emphasis on serving up plain, simple, fresh organic food: artisanal cheeses, yoghurt, wines and even donkey milk. There is also a definite trend of re-cultivating ancient and heirloom varieties of grains, fruits and vegetables, which of course go hand-in-hand with organic and biodynamic agricultural practices. Overall, the European consumer seems to demand foods as they’ve always known them, today with the added reassurance of ECO-CERT, as well as the ever-expanding Demeter biodynamic label.

2. Everything Baobab
From Baobab-spiked carbonated beverages and energy bars to dipping sauces and body care, everything Baobab is hot. Providing mega nutrients, pre- and probiotics, minerals and fiber, this “tree of life” seems to be the flavor of the day. The good news is that the baobab raw material seems to be sustainably and responsibly cultivated by most of the brands that we saw. Amongst the most memorable brands were the pioneering beverage brand Baola (baobab.org), and an Italian snack bar brand, wow!bab (wowbab.com).

3. Great packaging and retail design
Europeans do packaging really well. Even the smallest, start-up brands have their act together in a way that makes some big North American brands look unfinished. The use of color, texture, functionality and sheer inventiveness are an open invitation to walk to the shelf and engage with the products. They understand that the quality of the packaging should be as good as the stuff it holds. Amongst our favorites were an Icelandic sea salt company Nordur (nordursalt.com), who not only has exquisitely pure salt produced in a completely carbon-neutral way, but every element of their story and package is embedded with design intention; or an organic gelato retail concept Bio Bio by Moca (moca.it), with their repurposed-wood paneled concept stores, selling fresh-daily organic gelato using compostable cups and spoons.

4. Oils with intention
Traditionally, Europeans have never been down with popping capsules or tablets for health. They much prefer to eat their “medicine” – which seems to be working for them.
On display was everything from the latest trend of camelina oil, to argan, macadamia, walnut, pumpkin seed, hazelnut and toasted almond oils, and of course a whole section dedicated to the finest organic and bio-dynamic olive oils in the planet.
But some of the freshest ideas came in the way of functional oil combinations. One of our favorites was a beautifully packaged mix of macadamia oil with raspberries from French brand BioPlanète (bioplanete.com), boldly labeled Gibt Frauen Power, literally Gives Women Power in German. How can you not love that? It’s a tasty little oil made to balance women’s hormones. Others were labeled Get Your Day Moving or Open Up Your Mind, incorporating oils from macadamia, pumpkin seed, orange and pomegranate amongst others. If only Canadian regulations would allow this level of labeling vigor, what a great concept.

5. Local and wildcrafted beauty
Although the beauty section of the show, Vivaness, is much smaller than the rest of Biofach, there was a vibrant representation of organic and natural brands from every continent. The trend was towards beauty products formulated with local ingredients and wildcrafted herbs. Some of our favourite’s included a South African brand, Africa Organics (africaorganics.co.za), who draw on powerful indigenous plant extracts, including the omnipresent baobab. Another find was a Russian skin care line, Natura Siberica (naturasiberica.ru), using indigenous wildcrafted herbs. Small boutique brands, like Latvian specialty soap maker MiloMill (milomill.com), impressed with their illustrated botanical packaging by a young Latvian painter—so beautiful that I wanted to wallpaper my bathroom in their boxes, certainly the ideal effect to have on any potential consumer. All in all, the brands we found the most interesting were taking natural beauty to a new level. Of course, the best muse is to simply look around and connect with the local landscape, so the trend of drawing on wildcrafted botanicals for inspiration seems very a relevant.

At the end of the day, BioFach/Vivaness is definitely the place to allow the bouquet of international brands to inspire you. Watching as these brands strive to create and develop a rich consumer experience in-store and in their daily lives. The thought, care and intention in creating beautiful organic products, seems to respect and honor this special relationship. For without consumers, we would have no industry at all. Why not continue to delight and inspire them – it’s where the magic happens in creating a memorable natural brand.

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