Raw food has blossomed within the natural food sector in the last few years, but will it remain the preserve of the natural health food retailer? Jane Wolfe takes a look
There are undoubtedly a myriad of positives to a raw food diet and the market has grown substantially in recent years, but how far into consumers’ consciousness has it really sunk?
“Raw food is still an emerging category,” says David Street, marketing manager, The Premium Snack Company, which produces the Nothing But range of freeze-dried fruit and veg snacks. “As with free-from foods, which are increasingly becoming a lifestyle choice, it’s not inconceivable that raw will become more mainstream. However, I think we are now looking at a market in its infancy rather than a niche market.”
Kate Magic, co-founder of Raw Living, Europe’s largest online resource for raw food and living, says: “I’ve been doing this for 21 years, when raw didn’t really exist as a thing at all, and now there is raw almond milk in Pret A Manger and green juices in Waitrose. The growth this year has been mindblowing. How-ever, I think raw itself still isn’t a very trendy concept.”
Katie Clare, PR & marketing manager at inSpiral Visionary Products, agrees that raw is edging into the mainstream, but that “being completely raw may still be more of a niche and a philosophy/belief system, but one that we are really seeing spreading across Europe”.
“At its most basic, raw food is in the mainstream,” says Amy Clinkard, own-label buyer at Planet Organic, which recently launched its own range of raw products under the Raw46 sub-brand. “It can be as simple as a fresh salad, smoothie or a piece of fruit. However as a lifestyle choice where raw foods make up between 70-100% of the total diet, raw is still a niche market. That said, the rate of growth seen within the independent health foods sector is encouraging.
“The argument for raw food is strong – a sustainable, long-term solution to maintaining health. It is also a nutritious solution to the increased demand for unprocessed and allergen-free foods – but the challenge has been accessibility. However the recent development of raw convenience food for retail has made the raw lifestyle more accessible and the pace of development has been fast.”
What’s cooking (or not)?
So what’s hot in the raw sector? “This year it’s been mostly about the drinks,” says Magic, “people going beyond just fruit juice and getting into vegetable juicing and nut milks. Chocolate exploded a few years ago and that’s pretty consistent – it’s probably the biggest sub-sector.”
Clinkard believes that whilst ambient product developments continue to excite, the latest and most ground-breaking raw food innovation has come in the form of fresh takeaway foods. “Far beyond a simple salad, we now have raw sandwiches, pizza and burgers with a look and taste to challenge their non-raw counterparts,” she says.
Clinkard sees nut butters as one high growth category. “Under the Raw 46 brand, our Chocolate & Hazelnut Butter and our Sprouted Chia Almond Butter are selling incredibly well. Demand for sprouted products is increasing due to the numerous associated benefits and we are seeing strong sales on our Raw 46 Sprouted Naked Rolled Oats.”
She says superfoods is another key category, with the store’s top sellers including Organic Traditions Maca x6, Sprouted Chia, and Goji Berries. “Other popular sellers include coconut oil, chocolate, kale chips, raw coconut water, sandwiches and cakes.”
Clare has also seen kale chips rise in popularity, along with superfoods and raw cakes: “It is a real shift to move away from a cake full of gluten, dairy and sugar to one made of nuts, coconut, cacao, avocado. Why feel guilty about eating a dessert loaded with unhealthy foods when you can feel much prouder of eating a raw dessert?”
The health-giving properties of raw foods aren’t confined to consumption, with raw beauty being touted as the next hot thing in skincare. But it’s not just another trend, as Jessica Laura, CEO of Brighton-based Raw Gaia, explains. “The benefits of raw bodycare are similar to those of eating raw food. The active nutrients – plant acids, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants – can all be enjoyed through raw skin products so you’re actually giving your skin a much healthier start.” “To a lot of people raw skincare is brand new,” she adds, “but I think as companies grow and awareness rises there will be a point where it is completely common to see raw skincare in the high street.” Laura sees raw skincare as being a step beyond organic because although with organic certification a lot of chemicals are banned, there are still a lot that can be used. “The problem is that you only need to have a tiny, tiny amount of organic ingredients to call the whole thing organic. We trade on the fact that if we say a product is organic it’s because 100% of everything that’s gone into it is certified organic.”
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