Alternative Foods Hit the Mainstream, Providing Better-for-You Options

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Consumers today are making a notable shift towards eating cleaner. It’s led to the success of a number of small, artisanal companies with lofty values, and now, a wave of large brand names are also getting into the game, often by acquiring these smaller, innovative companies.

Carmel Hagan, Founder of Supernatural New York City explains how once trendy lifestyle changes like organic, plant-based, and vegan are now being adopted by larger shares of the market.

“The idea that we need to be taking care of ourselves through food is becoming more and more mainstream and that’s something that I think, at a baseline, is probably the number one thing that most people can do in their lives to have autonomy over their health,” she says.

Carmel also dives into a “cliche” but important point about how the internet has created a level of transparency in food where consumers are more knowledgeable about their food making them more active in pushing food companies and restaurants to do better and provide better options in everything from beverages to desserts.

Co-Founder and CEO of Nekter Juice Bar Steve Schulze jumps in to add that he believes there is still work to do as far as education. With comps up for fast food companies like McDonald’s, he makes an interesting point about how consumers are simplifying their health goals.

“I can put [out] an apple and a Snickers bar. They may have the same amount of sugar but they’re fundamentally two different things. Yet the consumer may look at it and say ‘Hey, a Snickers is 200 [grams of sugar] and this is 200 [grams of sugar] so … I can have a Snickers.’”

Aside from the healthful and environmental motivators to eat clean, there also needs to be a consideration of the rise in food allergies and how those have changed how people are feeding themselves and their families. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the prevalence of food allergies in children increased by 50% between 1997 and 2011.

Mariana Cortez, the Founder of Bunnie Cakes, says her son’s dairy allergy was the whole reason behind creating her vegan cake company. Coming from a Latin community, there weren’t many options for foods free of animal products. She knew she couldn’t be the only one looking for this type of product, so she set out to fill this gap in her community. Consumers may be looking to cut certain ingredients out of their diets, but they don’t want to give up their favorite foods. It’s our industry’s job to provide those solutions.

And while we know that these problems exist, Carmel concedes that we don’t yet have innovative solutions for all of them.

There are many different types of consumers today. While the trend is going towards eating “cleaner,” what that means is very different for each person. Some want more organic meats, some want to cut out meat altogether, and even others wish to avoid all animal products and non-organic produce. Companies need to decide what their motivation is within the space to ensure they are providing what consumers are looking for while trying not to make a mutant of their brand.


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