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  • Richman, Nessa J.
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    Sales of "natural" foods are rising much more rapidly than any other segment of the food market. Evidence of this leading edge of growth comes from a variety of indicators - the exponential rise in farmers' markets, the expansion in natural foods grocery stores, consistently strong stock market showings, and investment by venture capitalists. Many mainstream supermarkets have joined the trend, offering an array of organic and other natural foods. Although natural products now comprise about two percent of total food sales, the rapid growth rate, if sustained, will quintuple its influence on the farming, processing, distributing, and retailing food stream over the next decade. Despite impressive growth through the 1990s, achieving the full potential of the natural foods market is not assured. This immature market requires careful policy actions to fulfill its capacity to help satisfy private and public objectives. While the growth in natural food sales holds obvious rewards for the business sector, contributions to public policy objectives should not be overlooked. Scientists and practitioners of sustainable agriculture know that economic viability is key to farming and food systems that leave a lighter environmental footprint across the country. The spread of such systems could contribute to important national environmental objectives; for example, reduced water pollution. However, adoption of these alternative systems of food production has been slow. The strong growth in consumer demand for natural foods offers an economically viable opportunity for wider adoption. In 771e Natural Foods Market: A National Survey of Strategies for Growth, Nessa Richman identifies the obstacles to achieving the hill potential of this market development, and presents private and public strategies to reduce key barriers. Prominent on the list of obstacles is the uncertainty over standards for natural foods products, which would guide the actions of all market participants, from farmers to consumers. Both industry and government agencies have roles in alleviating that uncertainty. The report's comprehensive analysis combines and interprets a diverse array of private and public information, to help experts and novices understand this developing market. It uses the latest information to chronicle the growth and diversity of the sector. The identification of obstacles draws upon the findings of a new national survey of farmers, food processors, distributors, and retailers. The responses of those already involved in natural foods are contrasted with those who are not already involved, ill order to assess the obstacles perceived by each group. Private and public strategies to foster durable market growth are built from the survey findings and from the insights gained from interviews with food industry leaders. The Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture offers this report to encourage effective actions in the private and public sectors, which will lower obstacles to growth in the natural foods market. With the report, the Institute's Policy Studies Program undertakes a new initiative centered on analysis of the marketing of sustainable agriculture products. We hope that this report and following publications stimulate a dialogue within and among private and public circles, which moves society toward a sustainable food system.

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    This book is provided by Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture in its series Policy Studies Program Reports with number 134119 and published in 1999.
    Handle: RePEc:ags:hawall:134119
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