Category Archives: Events

Takeaways from the 2013 Sustainable Foods Summit Europe

Sustainable Foods Summit AmbersterdamOrganic Monitor hosted the annual Sustainable Foods Summit Europe in Amsterdam in June. Given HQO’s global presence, our CEO, Raju Boligala, always attends. He not only gathers the latest insights on the issues that are top-of-mind in Europe, but he is often asked to speak or moderate a panel. Raju always enjoys this important dialogue with our global ‘neighbors’ and came back with the following takeaways. But first, a top-line look at the growth the global organic and Fair Trade industry are achieving. (Source: Organic Monitor.)

Global Organic Industry
Market Size (2011) $62.8 billion
Market Growth: 6% (YOY) & 172% since 2002 
Global Fair Trade Industry
Market Size (2011) $6.6 billion
Market Growth 12$ (YOY) & 206% since 2006

2013_6_Raju at Sustainable Summit Europe1. Addressing the sustainability challenge while ensuring all stakeholders are taken care of.

As the global organic industry continues to grow, it experiences new challenges. One of the biggest messages this year was the importance of maintaining sustainability for all stakeholders: from the communities where the product is grown or manufactured to the generations to come who will be relying on the land or water resources we utilize.

2.  Sustainable foods in urban cities

We have several challenges caused by our current food and agriculture industry according to the presentations by Food Cycle, a charity using unwanted food (potential food waste) and volunteers to provide delicious meals for those in need, and Sustainable Food Cities, a non-profit working to create food secure cities with the collaboration of health, food, government, academic, community and charitable organizations.

– An epidemic of diet-related diseases impacting our population meaning our children may become the first generation to live shorter lives than their parents.

– Food poverty affects more than ¼ of all people on the planet (15% in the U.S. according to the U.S. Poverty Report 2012).

– Food and farming is responsible for 25% of greenhouse gas emissions and is contributing to a decline in the quality or our soils, water and biodiversity.

– We throw away 50% of all the food we produce.

– Most farmers earn less than minimum wage and food workers consistently receive lower than average wages.

– We have an abundance of low-nutrient food made in an unsustainable model

– Food is a powerful vessel to not only enrich the environment and economy but improve the health and vitality of the community.  By improving the entire system – from the soil to the supper plate – we can make monumental change.

3.  Management of sustainable products in retailing

The Delhaize Group spoke about the importance of improving sustainability throughout the supply chain as it relates to retail products.  Some of the key points were:

– Developing more intimate relationships with producers

– Bringing consumers closer to farmers

– Creating closer relationships with community

– Reducing food waste

– Partnering with environmental organizations to develop sustainable sourcing programs. (They partnered with the World Wildlife Fund to improve their seafood sourcing.)

– A major way to accomplish all of these tasks is through training: producers/supply chain, sales and marketing, buyers and consumers.

Raisio Water Footprint Product4.  Water and water footprint measurement in sustainability

The Raisio Group spoke about the new challenges and opportunities in measuring water usage.  They brought the first consumer product with a water footprint seal to market (click on the image to learn more) and have learned a lot in the process.  Some of their main points were:

– Quite frankly, consumers aren’t really thinking about the impact their consumption has on water resources.

– It’s extremely difficult to measure a product’s total water impact. For example, to measure water impact fairly, you can’t just measure water consumption but must also take into account the impact grey water has on the environment.

5.  Proliferation of eco labels

Organic Monitor has presented on a very important topic eco-confusion at both the American and European Sustainable Summits.  

Eco Confusion – 52% of Americans are overwhelmed by the environmental information provided on products. Yet there are over 400 registered environmental labels worldwide.  Consumers want environmental information from companies but don’t confuse them with five different seals on the package. Source: 2012 Cone Green Gap Trend Tracker

Eco Confusion – 52% of Americans are overwhelmed by the environmental information provided on products. Yet there are over 400 registered environmental labels worldwide. Consumers want environmental information from companies but don’t confuse them with five different seals on the package. Source: 2012 Cone Green Gap Trend Tracker

6.  Sustainable commodities

7.  Ancient grains and natural sweeteners

8.  Marketing claims and mislabels

9.  Social media and digital marketing – Well-respected speakers like the ow

Raju at Sustainable Foods Summit

HQO CEO, Raju Boligala, asks a question at the Sustainable Foods Summit Europe.

10.  Consumer insights on attitudes towards sustainable foods – 2/3 of consumers are consider the “middle green” – meaning they need to be educated and influenced to purchase sustainable products.  It was encouraged that sustainable food companies focus on marketing to this demographic, not the “dark green” consumer, who already searches out sustainable products.

It’s definitely an exciting time for the food and organic industry.


Top Trends from the 2013 Summer Fancy Food Show

Specialty Food Assn LogoThe Summer Fancy Food Show in NYC is the largest specialty food show in North America.  With over 180,000 products and nearly 2,400 exhibitors from 80 countries, New York’s Fancy is the place to spot emerging food trends.

William Madden, Vice President of New Business Development, and East Coast Sales Manager Michael Klass were on hand to roam the isles, meet with customers and spot the top trends.  Below is their top ten list from the 2013 Summer Fancy Food Show.

1. Quinoa and Ancient Grains – Ancient grains, especially quinoa, have seen a huge surge in demand in a very short period of time.  We see this trend continuing as more people look for gluten-free options and pure, natural ingredients.
2. Salsa – This one doesn’t surprise us. The fastest growing demographic in the U.S. is Hispanics (click here to read our white paper on Hispanics) and salsa sales far outpace ketchup. It makes perfect sense that this beloved condiment is booming in popularity.
3. Brines – This speaks to the trend we’re seeing in fermenting and the resurgence of homemakers growing their own food and preserving it via canning. What once was a tradition we only vaguely recall our grandmothers doing is now all the rage with the hippest foodies. Modernizing the preserving process with ready-made brines in a wide variety of flavors makes perfect sense.
4. Sauces –  As consumers look to cook with more fresh and healthful ingredients, they’re still demanding big flavor in a variety of ways. Baby boomers want more flavor in healthful ways and millennials want convenient ethnic flavors. Sauces bring these solutions and more to the convenience-driven consumer.
Whole Grain Council_SproutedGrain5. Sprouted – Health and wellness are driving a lot of food trends these days and sprouted seeds and grains is a great example of a food trend becoming popular based on its health benefits.  Sprouted grains and seeds claim to be easier for the body to digest and the nutrients (especially B vitamins and vitamin C) more bioavailable. Several research projects are underway to quantify sprouted grains health benefits. (Click on the image at the right to read more about sprouted grains.)
6. Superfoods – These have been a trend for sometime and we continue to see new products emerging claiming a superfood ingredient. Maca, baobab and chia are just of the few latest and greatest superfoods gaining popularity.
7. Fair Trade – More and more consumers demand transparency from the products they consume. Not only do they want a pure, safe and natural product but they want to make sure the people growing that product were paid fairly. Fair Trade speaks to the growing trend on corporate social responsibility and transparency. While the certification has been around for some time, we are seeing a growing use and demand for the seal.
8. Gluten-Free – This trend is most-likely what sparked the ancient grains trend. Gluten-free is another trend that’s been around for awhile and appears to continue to grow. Allergen-free is definitely the way of the future for many product lines.

Read more about the trends spotted at the 2013 Fancy Food Show in these great articles:

5 trends spotted at the 2013 Summer Fancy Food Show by Kelsey Blackwall of

5 top trends we saw at the Summer Fancy Food Show 2013 by Hannah Crowley of America’s Test Kitchen

Specialty Foods Association reveals top 5 trends from the Fancy Food Show

Chickpeas and kale and goat, oh my! Trends from the Fancy Food Show by Beth Snyder Bulik of

Top 10 Trends from the World Tea Expo 2013

The World Tea Expo is the only trade event completely dedicated to the tea category. Hosted each June in Last Vegas, the World Tea Expo brings together over 200 exhibitors, dozens of experts and thousands of attendees. Below are the top trends I saw during the three-day show:

1. DeeBee’s Organic Tea Pops – Hands down the most popular booth at the show. The concept is so simple yet absolutely brilliant. Given the success we’ve seen of other frozen treats, we expect these to be in almost every grocery store very soon. Flavors included mint, coconut, mango and iced tea.

2. New Varieties – Honeybush has been used in teas before but this year we saw it marketed on its own. We also saw some increased chatter around Yerba Mate.

3. Fruit – In response to consumer demand, tea companies are finding alternative ways to sweeten tea without the use of sugar or artificial ingredients.  We saw blackberries, grapes and fruit blends being used this year.

4. Ready-to-Drink with a Twist – This category of tea has been going gang busters for several years and continues to be a dominant trend in 2013. This year the ready-to-drink products included new teas like rooibos, being marketed simply as ‘red tea,’ and lightly carbonated teas.

5. More Organic Options on the Horizon – While there are a lot of organic teas on the market, they certainly don’t command the majority of market share. We’re sensing the tide is beginning to shift as there was definitely more discussion and interest in sourcing organic tea.

6. Herbal Teas & Blends – Herbal teas have been on grocery store shelves for decades but we’re seeing some exciting innovations given increased consumer demand for healthier beverages. Blends addressing a health or wellness concern continue to grow in popularity.

Tiesta Tea Tins

Tiesta Tea Tins won best new product at the 2013 Word Tea Expo.

7. Reusable Tea Tins – Packaging innovations continue across all food categories and tea companies continue to push the envelope in many areas of package design.  The most notable trend at World Tea Expo was the number of beautiful reusable tea tins. There were tons of shapes, sizes and designs – many worthy of prominent display in your kitchen. A savvy marketing approach for any brand.

8. Social Responsibility – While sustainability is still an important part of a tea brand’s story, social responsibility messaging was definitely more prominent at this year’s show.  Most notably, Wild Mountain Tea. They did a beautiful job sharing how their tea is grown and harvested ethically in Africa.

9. Green Tea – Green tea is on the fast track for growth given its well-known health benefits.  In fact, its market share is growing the fastest (when compared to black, oolong or white). We saw tons of new blends using green tea: mango green tea, mint green tea and more.

10. Tea is Growing – It was clear from our time at the show that the tea industry is thriving. With the rapid growth of the ready-to-drink beverage segment and specialty tea expected to grow 50% by 2016, it certainly is an exciting time to be in tea! Read more about the opportunities in tea from our newest white paper, HQO Market Insights: Time for Tea.

Top 5 Trends from the National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show


The National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show is the largest foodservice show in America.  Held every year in May at McCormick Place in Chicago, IL, the NRA Show brings together over 1,800 exhibitors and tens of thousands of visitors from all over the world.

This year, HQO’s Vice President of New Business, Willam Madden, who is based in Chicago, took a quick tour of the show and noticed these top trends:

Aloe Vera Water by Novamex

Aloe Vera Water by Novamex

1. Gluten Free

2. Aloe Water

3. Hummus

4. Snacks – Especially Popcorn

5. Lollipops & Other Individual Dessert Offerings

For more insight on the trends seen at the NRA Show, check out these great articles and videos:

Top 10 culinary trends at 2013 NRA Show by Bret Thorn of Nation’s Restaurant News.

Top 3 trends from the show floor at NRA Show 2013 by Tricia Smith of SmartBlog on Food & Beverage.

Trends in beverages and foodservice from the National Restaurant Association Show 2013 by Jonas Feliciano, Beverages Industry Analyst and Elizabeth Friend, Foodservice Industry Analyst of EuroMonitor International.

A Rookie’s Recap of Natural Products Expo

By Stephanie Rayburn, Sales Trainee for High Quality Organics

I had a “lightbulb on” moment as our marketing manager and I pulled up to the Natural Products Expo West; dropping off gallons of our HQO-special lucuma ice cream. As we drove into an organized chaos of cars, people, fork-lifts and pallets piled high with products and equipment I said, “Ohhhh… Now I get it…!”

ExpoWest Logo

Expo West was bigger, better and more awesome than anything I had previously envisioned! The next several days were a whirl-wind of high-energy excitement and hard work.  As I passed out samples of the ice cream and our crowd-pleasing Organic Masala Chai tea, made contacts and scanned badges, I also observed the art of networking, as showcased by our ever-on-point sales team.

I quickly learned to carry a stack of business cards around as I hunted for the best snack samples — almost everyone uses organic spices and vegetables in their products and many companies are growing and looking for new suppliers.  I met several of our current customers and got to taste for myself what they did with HQO ingredients; products that I had only known by item number, like “24 decorticated cardamom,” took on a new life for me in the delicious treats I sampled.

Numi Savory TeasSince I shamelessly frequent the organic and bulk (read “yuppy and hippy”) sections of grocery stores, I was surprised to find so many products at the show that were not yet on my radar.  How about Numi’s vegetable teas? Carrot curry tea… “Not quite soup, but more than tea!” Yuba, a tofu alternative with amazing texture and an appealing, less-processed and more natural look. Also, coconut everything! Coconut oil, nectar, butter… coconut dried, pressed, spreadable, drinkable, crunchy, creamy, hot, iced… YUM! Chia seeds were huge, both the black and white types that HQO brings in.  New crackers and chips were around every corner, featuring flax, sesame, and hemp seeds.  Powdered greens and dehydrated vegetables were popular in bars and raw snacks,  some made with HQO-created proprietary spice blends.  Interesting new botanicals, such as the mineral-packed South American root “maca,” the tropical super-green called Moringa, and kava, a South Pacific drink known for its relaxing effect. There was quite a bit of interest in and knowledge of lucuma, our showcased ice cream flavor- good job HQO for being ahead of the curve on that new trend!

The Expo was, at times, over-whelming and exhausting- but most of all, FUN! We have the best industry, full of people who love to exchange ideas, care about the health of their customers and their planet, and who look at buying and selling as simply creating win-win situations.  I came away from the Expo understanding that the most important thing HQO does is fulfill a need for our costumers, allowing them to in turn serve their customers with delicious and healthy products.  As we packed up the booth, our marketing manager was already analyzing, reflecting and scheming about next year! Onward and upward!

StephLakeTahoeStephanie (often referred to as Steph) is from many beautiful places, including East Texas (she still lets the occasional “ya’ll” slip), Oregon, Arizona and West Africa, where she served in the Peace Corp.  She is most in her element when traveling and exploring, and is loving her current adventures in ‘The Biggest Little City’ she’s ever lived.  She is passionate about organics and the sustainable agriculture practices that the industry encourages, but her favorite part of being on the High Quality Organics team is the wide range of fun characters she gets to work with! Steph has a twin sister (fraternal) and an older brother who live in the area; her mom is a self-taught herbalist, and HQO’s biggest Facebook fan.  On weekends you can find her hiking in the pines of Lake Tahoe and enjoying the music and craft beers of Reno.