Since the natural products industry's largest annual gathering, Natural Products Expo West, in early March, a flurry of trend reports have surfaced, all predicting consumers' future food preferences.

Last week, as Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ) and the Sterling-Rice Group's NEXT forecast questioned whether organic is on a path to eventual irrelevancy, newhope360 reported that local organic production is the biggest food trend in decades, with numbers indicating that the natural and organic food market will continue to outpace growth of the total U.S. food market.

The organic industry recorded $23.4 billion in 2010 and its growth continues to rebound from the recession, reports NBJ. The Organic Trade Association reported 7.7% organic industry growth in 2010, outpacing the growth of total conventional food sales, and industry experts are anticipating greater growth in 2011.  

The growth of organic matches recent projections from Nielsen that packaged good sales have been on a steady decline, while fresh and perishable sectors are on the rise. Consumers are taking an increasing interest in the perimeter of the grocery store—produce, dairy, meat, poultry and seafood—and home-cooked meals.

But taking a healthier approach to food is often easier said than done, according to New Hope Natural Media's most recent research, "The Future of Wellness: How Consumers Define 'Healthy' at Retail." Here's what we found during this year's research.