As used within the health and natural food industry, natural foods are free of additives, contain no artificial ingredients or preservatives, and are minimally processed. Conventional products are often labeled “natural” but do not meet the criteria applied within the health and natural food sector.
Products with most or all of the following characteristics can be said to be part of the health and natural food market:
- Foods containing natural ingredients and making bold claims for them
- Foods containing organic ingredients and labeling
- Foods sold in health and natural product stores and in natural-food sections of supermarkets and other mass-market outlets
- Foods distributed by health and natural food distributors or natural foods divisions of specialty food distributors
Many natural foods are organically grown, raised, and processed. Organic agriculture seeks a balance with nature, using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment. Organic standards generally prohibit the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and genetically engineered organisms (GMOs).
Natural foods embody all types of foods and beverages found in the mass market, from raw ingredients, such as flour, herbs, spices, vegetable oils, produce, dairy, and meat, to convenience products like pancake mixes, canned foods, and single- serve frozen entrees. It is the method of growing or preparation that sets such health and natural food products apart from their mainstream counterparts.