S1E9: Heather Kennedy - Taking a Bite Out of the Natural and Organics Market
Play • 25 min

The natural and organic products market is exploding, with more businesses and industries looking to create impact in this space. The epicenter for the movement: Boulder, Colorado, home to many of the players in this space as well as thought leadership about what the industry will look like going forward.

On this episode, we’re joined by Leeds marketing instructor Heather Kennedy. Heather has over 15 years of experience in brand strategy, product development and management. She’s worked for Kraft Foods, Whole Foods Market, and, more recently, the Fresh Ideas Group in Boulder, which specializes in natural and organic products.

Heather offers insight on how far the natural foods movement has come, and forecasts where it’s headed in the future.


On the difference between natural and organic

[00:01:54] If you see organic, you know that that product has not been grown with certain pesticides or certain fertilizers, et cetera. Natural, on the other hand, is about how a product is processed in general. And, it really does not have a specific definition from the FDA or the USDA. 

Nobody takes a look to see if a product is natural. You don't have to be certified to say that your product is natural. And so, it really becomes up to the consumer to decide: when they see natural on a label, what does that mean? 

On how the industry is shaped by world events

[00:08:49] 80% of the world's sunflower oil is coming from Ukraine and Russia. That may not seem like a big deal, except that it's an ingredient that's in a lot of national organic products, and very specific to the natural and organic industry. So the industry is going to have to find a way to source differently, whether that's finding local sources or growers and producers in the United States or nearby. That's going to be something that the industry needs to focus on moving forward. In addition, Russia and Ukraine supply more than a quarter of the world's wheat, and we're already seeing that impact in pricing, and in shortages coming from that.

On how Leeds is preparing students for success in the industry

[00:14:57] These businesses are based in purpose and passion. The downside is that a lot of these folks don't have the business skills or training that really would make bringing that product to market a lot easier and more efficient. It's a tough, tough industry, with a lot of competitors. So, we see an opportunity to train our students who have that passionate interest in the natural organic space or in doing something and training them in consumer packaged goods and business acumen so that they can go work in some of these companies on the other side of this.

On marketing

[00:18:57] I use the example of a passionate founder who wants to make hummus, and his friends really love the hummus that he's made. And so he wants to take it to market. But if you have to look a little wider, now, look at the marketplace, what's in the marketplace right now. There are a lot of hummuses out there. Probably the last thing the world needs is a hummus or a salsa. We’ve got a lot of those right now. So, what's going to make your product better and different?


Faculty Profile at Leeds School of Business

Heather Kennedy on LinkedIn

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