claire nuttal web

Anticipating Natural Products Expo East, next week in Baltimore, I was reflecting on brands that I might see and how different it would be to Expo West, which I visited earlier in the year.

It made me think about the changing vibe around brands, branding and possible approaches being taken to stand out and own unique territory in the growing natural food and drink space.

It’s clear the natural trend we are in the full throes of experiencing is not just about a reassuring ‘natural’ claim on a pack. Naturalness is multifaceted and needs to be delivered across all dimensions of a brand.

I’m detecting a distinct 60s/70s folk revival-inspired ‘craft’ angle coming to life across multiple categories, not just in the more obvious beer and cider categories, where clearly this has been evolving for a few years. (I am sure this whole spirit of festivals and community has been key to where it is now heading).

You only have to go back to the term folklore, which was coined in 1846 by the English antiquarian William Thoms to describe “the traditions, customs and superstitions of the uncultured classes”. The times feel right for more brands that are founded on tradition, custom and spirituality.

These could be a new breed of brands that people trust, engage with and believe in intuitively, because they are what they are and do not pretend to be anything else. They will have historical significance and therefore have an inbuilt sense of worthiness, depth and meaning. Kombucha is a category that could fill this gap currently. It has been enjoyed by generations and, seeing the success in the US, it could be a new cultural liberation in the UK, too, in time.

The lifestyles and principles of folk music-inspired eras, it seems to me, were all about contentment with simplicity and basic things at the core. It was about honesty, generosity of spirit, values and people, nothing at all to do with manufactured, glossy execution and ego.

This earthy enjoyment factor, which could only be the domain of the individual, was felt and experienced, rather than spoken about and boasted. I think there’s an intriguing sense of healthy hedonism, values and properness about this potential surge of new brands, which people will go for as they have a real place and aspirational role in everyday lives.

The type of brands I allude to will come alive in old-fashioned, simple yet functional packaging; they’ll have understated labels and intriguing rituals to enhance the experience. They will have strong, genuine back stories, no fakery and manipulation at all. A new wave of brands and products people can truly believe in.

Claire Nuttall is founder of The Brand Incubator