Safeway Seeks to Better Define “Natural” Foods


It’s a long-running conundrum for better-for-you food and beverage marketers: How do you leverage a “natural” positioning for new, healthful products compared with marketing new “organic” items?

USDA standards have defined and regulated organic labeling for several years now, but the meaning of “natural” is something that still remains unaddressed by regulators and, consequently, by marketers.

American consumers remain vastly confused by the two terms, with studies showing that they tend to credit many more important nutrition and health attributes to products labeled “natural” than they do to those labeled “organic” – even though the latter are the only ones consumers really can count on.[more]

CPG companies can (and in some cases, do) take advantage, of course, by slapping the “natural” description on just about anything. Safeway aims to change all that – at least in its supermarkets – with its private label “natural” food line, Open Nature, which was unveiled in January.

The chain already has become one of America’s biggest players in the organic market, along with Walmart, with Safeway’s O Organics line. Now, Safeway is ramping up marketing for the Open Nature store brand, including last week staging an event to create the world’s longest picnic table, with 400 participants helping the brand set a Guinness World Record in San Francisco.

Safeway is positioning “Natural” as a meaningful definition that can help consumers make the best informed food and nutritional choices. And it believes that information transparency about the products can be a key attribute.

To that end, Open Nature products will list all ingredients on the front of the package as well as the back, in plain and clear language. Consumers “are tired of four-syllable ingredients and brands that claim to be natural when they’re not,” Nancy Cota, Safeway’s VP of innovation and new-product development, told Marketing Daily. “We’re giving them an option that means they won’t even have to turn the package over and look on the back.

“We would like to do for natural,” Cota said, “what we did for organics.” And Safeway shoppers may just help the chain do that.


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