ANAHEIM, Calif. — The next big growth driver for food companies may not be an ingredient or flavor, but rather a social cause.

“Mission is driving growth for companies; that’s where we’re seeing change,” said Connor Link, senior editor of
New Hope Natural Media, during a presentation at Natural Products Expo West, held March 7-9 in Anaheim, Calif. “The integration of social mission and consciousness into your business model is really what’s going to drive consumer interaction with your products more than the idea that they’re healthier or better for you.”

Demand for transparency has extended beyond a product’s ingredient label. Today, more consumers also are concerned with a company’s practices and values. Establishing brand loyalty, especially among what New Hope identified as a growing consumer segment of fickle, fad-focused shoppers, may lie in fostering a social connection based on shared values.

“Integration of social beliefs to your very brand is a powerful proposition for your company,” Link said.

Startups and giants alike have begun committing to environmental and ethical goals. Some food makers donate directly to food banks or support an organization with a portion of product sales. Many brands at Expo West not only displayed new product innovation, but also programs and initiatives related to creating a positive social impact.