Food conglomerates gobble small healthy product companies to improve image

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Hormel acquired Applegate Farms and Coca Cola purchased Honest Tea to expand their holdings into the natural foods arena. (KABC)

In 1980, the Natural Product Expo had 3,000 attendees and 36 years later, the event has more than 77,000 walk the halls. It appears "natural" is no longer a fad.

"What we're also seeing at expo this year is small companies being purchased by bigger companies," said health expert and dietitian, Ashley Koff.

General Mills just purchased Annie's Naturals. It is nearly doubling its organic commitment, buying up organic acreage from which it sources ingredients and is expecting to reach $1 billion in net sales from natural and organics by 2019.

Without a doubt, beyond the plants is meat, meat and more meat. This expo is all things Paleo.

"We were acquired by General Mills two months ago. We're the first meat company they ever bought," said Epic Provisions owner, Taylor Collins.

Epic Provisions makes meat energy bars, bone broth and animal fat products.

"There's certainly a move from every major food company to reduce the number of ingredients, the magic number seems to be five ingredients, all that we can pronounce, and also avoiding anything artificial," said food market analysis, Phil Lempert.

Known as "The Supermarket Guru," Lempert said due to public perception, Campbell's is moving away from genetic modifications.

"They definitely saw the dollars leaving them. If you look at the move that Campbell's soup made about a week or so ago, where they declared that they're going to put on their label if the product contains genetically modified ingredients. That's huge," declared Lempert.

And while the term "organic" is government certified, there is no legal definition for the term "natural," so buyers beware.
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