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Natural Grocers Reveals Top Nutrition Trends for Next Year

Marian Zboraj, Progressive Grocer
Natural Grocers Reveals Top Nutrition Trends for Next Year
The retailer predicts 2021 to hold broader trends that focus on improving nutrition to support the consumer’s own health, as well as the health of communities and the environment.

Exploring ways to boost personal health through nutrition will play a crucial role for consumers next year, according to Natural Grocers' fifth annual Top 10 Nutrition Trends for 2021.

Natural Grocers' nutrition education team, made up of health and wellness experts ranging from registered dietitians to certified natural foods chefs, collaborated with the retailer's buyers and analysts, studied consumer-shopping preferences, examined the latest research, and scrutinized the impact COVID-19 has had on its communities in order to pinpoint their predictions for next year.  

"Our trends this year are dramatically different than previous years' in that they're far less fleeting. COVID-19 is a pandemic that sits on top of another pandemic in the United States of malnutrition and poor long-term health," remarked Shelby Miller, MS, Natural Grocers' manager of scientific affairs and nutrition education. "Hence, 2021 holds broader trends that focus on improving nutrition to support our own health, as well as the health of our communities and our environment."

Natural Grocers' Top 10 Nutrition Trends for 2021 are:

1.  Consumer Health Is D-pendent on Vitamin D

This nutrient plays a critical role in whether or not the immune system functions sufficiently and responds as needed. It is essential for maintaining healthy lungs, blood sugar levels, blood pressure and bones. It also supports positive moods, brain function and cognition, a healthy weight, children's health and muscle tone. According to Natural Grocers, between 40 and 80% of American adults are deficient in vitamin D, while approximately 90% have suboptimal levels. Because darker skin hampers the body's ability to synthesize vitamin D from sunlight, supplementation is especially important for people of color.

In March, FDA introduced the “What’s In It For You?” initiative to help consumers use the new Nutrition Facts label on packaged foods, which now includes required listings for vitamin D. 

2.  Everyday Immune Support for the Long Haul

Consumers have recognized the importance of "armoring up" and supporting their immune system on a daily basis so it can function optimally over the long haul. Dietary supplements can make daily, long-term immune support easier.

The COVID-19 outbreak prompted a big spike in sales of supplements supporting immune health. For example, according to SPINS data, the supplement industry in general saw double-digit increases in week-to-week sales unit percentages during each week in the entire month of March. 

Boosting immune competence can come from basic nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc.

3.  Better Blood Sugar Balance

Many options are available to support healthy blood sugar balance. More consumers will forego sugar-sweetened beverages, seek no-added sugar products, and try the keto diet. Adding supplements that support blood sugar balance will also be of interest — for example, alpha lipoic acid is well-known to support insulin sensitivity and glucose utilization. Balancing their blood sugar will allow consumers to benefit from a better mood, more balanced energy levels and overall long-term health.

4.  De-Stressing in a Healthy Way

The pandemic has certainly pushed added stress onto American consumers. De-stressing is crucial for overall health and is specifically beneficial for immune health, as stress hormones like cortisol significantly impair the immune response.

According to Natural Grocers, consumers will look to de-stress with nutrients to support their body’s ability to better cope with stress. These include magnesium, EPA and DHA from fish oil, B vitamins, vitamin C, phosphatidylserine, curcumin and adaptogenic herbs like rhodiola.

Additionally, Acosta’s recent survey, conducted between June 12 and 17, offers ways that retailers can meet the needs of the new mentally and financially stressed consumer. The marketing agency suggested stressed-out shoppers will appreciate shopping opportunities that make them feel "back to normal."

5.  Olive Oil Makes a Comeback

Olive oil has always had a place in the "good fat" category. This oil has a well-known role in the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet — its noteworthy phenols and polyphenols contribute to its nutritional benefits, including its anti-inflammatory properties.

To help increase their olive oils sales, grocers should incorporate associate and consumer education and sampling events next year to take advantage of this growing trend.

6.  The Climatarian

Consumer research is showing that while personal health is still a major driver for buying organic, consumers are shifting to buying organic for environmental reasons. So get used to seeing the term "climatarian," an individual who is making food choices with the intention of changing how food is grown — shifting from a chemical-intensive model to one that promotes soil health, biodiversity and healthy ecosystems — an important way to address climate change.  

Consumers will also recognize that prioritizing regenerative/pasture-based meat and dairy products as another crucial method to make a significant difference.

Retailers like Walmart have committed to become regenerative companies to help battle climate change. Nestlé has also recently committed to reduce the carbon footprint of its most emissions-intensive ingredients by working with supply chain partners and beef ranchers to help scale regenerative grazing practices in the Northern Great Plains in Montana.

7.  Affordable, Healthy Meals at Home

Most consumers have been cooking at home more since the start of the coronavirus outbreak. However, priorities have recently shifted and they are now searching for quick and affordable solutions to cooking, meal planning and meals that do not require a lot of prep. The year 2021 will pave the way to reinventing what cooking at home looks like.

Offering balanced dinner meals, like Fresh Market’s Ultimate Dinner Meals, and meal kits will be key. In fact, according to a new report from Grand View Research, the meal kit delivery market is predicted to achieve revenue of $19.92 billion by 2027, a compound annual growth rate of 12.8%.

8.  Vegetables Will Be Front & Center

Natural Grocers indicated that produce in any form — canned, frozen and fresh — provides what's known as nutrient density. A nutrient dense food is something that packs loads of nutrition in the form of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients and plays a major role in reducing the risk of chronic diseases. Veggies are some of the most nutrient dense foods, which is why they've remained a crucial part of diet recommendations. In 2021, consumers will make it a priority to try new veggies, incorporate more produce-laden recipes and be on the search for new weekly staples that leave them feeling healthy and satisfied.

Additionally, “veg-centric” is a trend in entrées that started in restaurants. It began when foodservice and restaurant customers asked for dishes with vegetables as the main course. 

9.  Get Back to the Basics to Be Rooted in Health

Natural Grocer predicts, as we move into 2021, consumers will be going back to the basics to take control of — and actively improve — their health. This means prioritizing sleep, cleaning up their diets, making time for exercise and daily movement, and recognizing the value of foundational supplements. To help consumers prioritize their health, Natural Grocers expanded its free nutrition education program, which is customarily in-person, to include a virtual guest presenter series and online personalized coaching sessions with the company's nutritional health coaches (NHCs). NHCs offer their expertise via free one-hour phone or video coaching sessions. Shoppers who live in a state with a Natural Grocers' store can fill out a form to request their coaching session and receive personalized care tailored to their individual needs, as well as a collaborative plan for success.

10.  Customized Fitness Nutrition

Natural Grocers predicts a decline in grab-and-go, post-workout foods and a rise in customized fitness nutrition and supplementation to optimize consumers’ workouts. Rather than grabbing a water and protein bar after their workout, in 2021 consumers will transition toward pairing whole, real foods with supplements that fuel movement and aid recovery. Consumers will be attracted to magnesium to support healthy muscle recovery, MCT oil to fuel more efficient workouts, collagen to support healthy joints and ligaments, beets and greens powders for healthy blood flow, and a B-complex vitamin to keep them energized for workouts.

Natural Grocers has more than 3,500 employees and operates 160 stores in 20 states. The Lakewood, Colorado-based company is No. 94 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.


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