Learnings from NATCHCOM: digital meets natural

Nico Brooks

June 25, 2019

Learnings from NATCHCOM: digital meets natural

Nico Brooks speaking at NATCHCOMTwo Octobers was at NATCHCOM last week, the premier (and only?) digital marketing conference for natural brands. I got a chance to share some ideas about metrics and marketing strategy, but mostly it was a chance for me to listen and learn.

First impression? I loved it! As an enthusiastic athlete, vegetarian and eater of food, I’ve been an avid consumer of natural products since forever. While I was mostly there to learn from industry experts, I felt very much at home. My very first job was at the Concord Spice & Grain, a really, really long time ago. I learned at NATCHCOM that the Spice & Grain was part of the “first-gen” natural foods movement. It was inspiring to hear the messages and feel the energy of the second-gen crowd.

Here are a few of my impressions and takeaways from the conference:

  • Natural foods is legit business. I heard various stats, but they all pointed in one direction: as consumers, we are being more thoughtful about what we eat and where it comes from. This is good for all of us, including innovative entrepreneurs.
  • “Regenerative” is the new “sustainable”. No, it’s better than that. Do we want to leave the world the same as we found it, or do we want to make it better?
  • Amazon is the 800-pound gorilla of retail. Whole Foods is the 800-pound gorilla of natural. Together, they are like an infinity-pound gorilla of natural foods retail. (800 + 800 ≈ ∞, right?) Amazon is leading a gradual trend towards food buying online, and their ownership of Whole Foods makes this especially poignant for the natural/specialty foods market. For better or for worse, a natural foods product strategy has to work with or around this behemoth.
  • We’ve been beating the online-influences-offline drum for a while, but it turns out offline influences online too!  Some smart folks from dirtyhands shared data on the offline landscape for natural foods, and the importance of in-store presence to the customer journey, even when it ends online.
  • There’s a bit of a gold rush happening in natural foods right now, and a few of the attendees reminded me of land-grabbers from Internet 1.0. However, most did not. For example, I got to chat with Dr. Onyx, who is all brilliance and heart. I heard many other stories of passion and the desire to have a positive impact.

There were a bunch of ideas buzzing around that I barely caught wind of, so this recap is far from complete. If you are in the natural products industry, I recommend going to NATCHCOM next year. If you are interested in getting a copy of my talk on accelerating natural products growth with digital marketing, or just want to connect, please reach out!

Nico Brooks is a fanatically-analytical principal at Two Octobers, as well as a wizard with a block of tofu. He reserves the latter for family and friends, but loves making new business connections if you are interested in the former.