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Sequencing Of Cacao Genome Will Benefit Chocolate Makers And Cacao Farmers

December 26, 2010: 12:34 PM EST

A multinational team of scientists who recently completed the sequencing and assembly of the chocolate tree genome suggests that the primary benefit from the initiative will go to producers of high quality chocolate and the farmers who grow the beans. The researchers sequenced the DNA of the Criollo variety of Theobroma cacao, which produces the world's finest chocolate. Growers, however, usually cultivate hybrid cacao varieties whose fruit is more abundant and disease resistant, but lower in quality. The researchers believe that their work will ultimately lead to increased productivity of the better quality cacao and help to develop a sustainable cacao economy benefiting farmers. Hidden in the genome the researchers also found genes that code for the production of cocoa butter, a substance highly prized in chocolate making, confectionary, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.

Xavier Argout, et al., "The genome of Theobroma cacao", Nature Genetics, December 26, 2010, © Nature Publishing Group
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Sequencing Of Cacao Tree DNA May Lead To More Sustainable Chocolate Production

December 26, 2010: 06:14 PM EST

An international group of scientists has sequenced the DNA of the Criollo tree, a variety of Theobroma cacao used in producing some of the world’s best chocolate. In doing so, they identified genes coding for or leading to chocolate quality, production of flavonoids, potential pest and disease resistance, and production of cocoa butter—a substance valuable in both confections and cosmetics. Low productivity and vulnerability to disease currently limit high-quality cocoa production to less than five percent of worldwide production, though market interest in superior, environmentally-friendly chocolate continues to increase. The results of this work should allow scientists to develop disease-resistant trees that produce more, better, and healthier chocolate—ultimately leading to sustainable cocoa production that benefits both the land the trees are grown on and the farmers who grow them.

Vladimir Shulaev, Daniel J Sargent, Ross N Crowhurst, Todd C Mockler, Otto Folkerts, Arthur L Delcher, Pankaj Jaiswal, Keithanne Mockaitis et al, "The genome of Theobroma cacao", Nature Genetics, December 26, 2010, © Nature Publishing Group, Open Access
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Sales Of Certified Eco-Friendly Chocolate Are On The Rise

December 24, 2010: 11:28 AM EST

Demand for certified environmentally-friendly chocolate is increasing. Consumers are more conscious about how and where their chocolate is grown, and are willing to pay a premium for it—and cocoa and chocolate producers are responding: Pastry chef François Payard imports about four tons of certified cocoa—20 percent of his total inventory—each year for his chocolate shops, and by 2020, Mars, Inc. plans to certify its entire supply of cocoa. Despite the economic downturn, certifiers saw ‘exponential growth’ over the last few years: According to the New York-based certification organization Rainforest Alliance, from 2007-2009, sales of certified cocoa more than doubled. Another certifier, Fair Trade USA, saw certified imports into the United States grow by 70 million pounds from 2006-2009.

LESLIE JOSEPHS, "Selling Candy With a Conscience", The Wall Street Journal, December 24, 2010, © Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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Vegetarian Menus Prove Successful In India For Fast Food Outlets

December 21, 2010: 10:09 AM EST

Some of America's largest fast food franchisees have noticed and used the trend towards vegetarian meals to find success in India. Globally, non-vegetarian products still hold the majority of sales, but companies such as Domino's and Pizza Hut say their vegetarian menus for outlets in India account for about 65-70 percent of overall sales. Traditionally viewed as non-vegetarian franchisees, both KFC and McDonald's have introduced vegetarian options. New products, including vegetarian items, have helped push KFC's same store sales up by 20 percent, and some of McDonald’s vegetarian Indian innovations, like the McAloo Tikki burger, have done well in India as well as in other markets. These companies are considering opening additional stores focusing entirely on vegetarian products with Domino's already leading the way with seven locations.

Sreerupa Mitra & Jayashree Maji , "America goes vegetarian in India", Mydigitalfc.com, December 21, 2010, © Financial Chronicle
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Organic Trade Association Commends U.S. Congress For Passing Food Safety Legislation

December 21, 2010: 09:26 PM EST

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) praised the U.S. Congress for passing the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, which is designed to strengthen the agency’s food safety oversight, and for adding provisions that protect organic farmers and producers from meeting conditions that duplicate or are counter to the requirements of the Organic Food Production Act. The legislation, which originally made its way through the Senate with strong bipartisan support, will also protect consumers from food-borne diseases, according to OTA executive director and CEO Christine Bushway. Aside from retaining the language that OTA had wanted, the legislation also comes with technical assistance resources, and amends the traceability and record-keeping provisions of the bill.

"Organic Trade Association applauds passage of Food Safety reform", Organic Trade Association, December 21, 2010, © Organic Trade Association
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Consumers Do Not Trust Natural Product Labeling Systems, Mambo Sprouts Study Shows

December 21, 2010: 08:46 PM EST

Natural product consumers do not believe “natural” product labels, according to the 2011 Organic Consumer Survey Report, a recent survey by marketing and promotions firm Mambo Sprouts Marketing. Of the 1,000 consumers who participated in the study, a third were either “not very” or “not at all” trusting of existing natural labeling systems. Around 65% were very interested in a uniform standard for certification of natural or organic products, although most preferred an independent, nonprofit or US government organization to handle certification. Results of the study also showed an increasing interest in mobile and digital coupon promotions, as consumer interest in technology and on store-based coupons continues to grow and cost-conscious consumers see coupon use as the “new normal”. There also appears to be a continued commitment to health and wellness, and store brand organics have gone mainstream, with firm favorites including Whole Foods 365 Organics, Trader Joe’s and Kroger Private Selection Organic.

"Green Consumers Skeptical of Products Labeled 'Natural'", Mumbo Sprouts, December 21, 2010, © Mambo Sprouts Marketing
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Food Safety Bill Could Turn Out To Hurt Small Farmers

December 20, 2010: 08:31 PM EST

The Food and Drug Administration gains a new tool with the passing of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. Aimed at reforming large industrial farms, the act provides the FDA authority to shut down producers that fail to meet science-based standards. This is a major change over older and poorly worded legislation that allowed companies to remain unaccountable even when facing large and reoccurring product recalls. The downside is that small farms, such as many organic farms, now fall under the same regulations for tracking produce as industrial farms if they sell to other businesses. Regulations of this type pose additional barriers to small farms attempting to expand. Corruption in the FDA is also a concern as the legislation essentially gives them control over who provides food to consumers.

Jamie Hardin, "Will the new food safety bill affect organic foods?", DC Organic Food Examiner, December 20, 2010, © Clarity Digital Group LLC
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USDA Offers Financial Aid To Organic Producers To Implement Resource Conservation Practices

December 20, 2010: 08:42 PM EST

Small and mid-sized organic producers and farmers transitioning to organic food production are getting financial help from the USDA to implement resource conservation practices, the agency announced. The assistance – this year totaling $50 million – was authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill to help organic farmers protect natural resources “and create conditions that help foster organic production,” according to USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. Producers eligible for the assistance include those certified through USDA's National Organic Program, those transitioning to certified organic production, and those who meet organic standards but are exempt from certification because annual organic sales are less than $5,000, the agency said. Appropriate use of the aid money would be, for example, to plant cover crops, create pest management plans or put in place organic nutrient management systems.

"USDA Offers Conservation Funding to Organic Producers", News release, USDA, December 20, 2010, © USDA
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Germany Urges European Database Of Certified Organic Suppliers To Curb Fraud

December 20, 2010: 09:32 AM EST

Germany has asked the European Commission to establish a dataset of certified organic producers to help reduce the risk fraudulent organic labeling. Several cases of conventional meat falsely labeled as organic have surfaced in Europe, and Germany believes a database would allow organic regulators to take swift action against producers who falsely label their products as organic to be able to charge higher prices. It would also ease concerns of organic consumers who want assurance that they are getting what they are paying for. Organic regulators would have to update the database immediately if they revoke a producer’s organic certification, which are at any rate often forged or passed off as current. Germany’s proposed new system would also permit supermarket chains to check whether their suppliers were still certified to deliver organic produce.

Nina Haase, "Germany calls for an EU database of organic producers", Deutsche Welle, December 20, 2010, © Deutsche Welle
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Walmart Announces Doubling Of Locally-Sourced Food By 2015

December 19, 2010: 09:27 AM EST

In October 2010, Walmart announced its intention to extend its locally-produced offerings by doubling the share of food produced in-state to 9 percent by 2015. The move is to meet one of the strongest current consumer demands, underlined by the growth in farmers markets, which exceeded 6,000 this year. Other supermarket chains are also addressing the trend, which is based on a perception of higher quality and a desire to support local farmers and communities. Supply, however, could be constrained by farmers’ reluctance to scale up, knowing they can often attract retail prices at farmers markets, as well as the additional formalities required to move to supplying wholesalers, such as insurance, transportation, packaging, and food safety conditions. However, with the trend powered by Walmart, there’s a good chance that it will become mainstream sometime in the future. 

Lydia Mulvany, "Walmart, other major retailers increase offering of locally grown food", Missourian , December 19, 2010, © Missourian
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Thailand Should Benefit From ASEAN Integration Of Member Organic Production, Export

December 18, 2010: 09:31 AM EST

With ASEAN encouraging and integrating organic production and export among its 10 member nations, Thailand stands to benefit if its farmers can focus on adopting organic production methods. Commerce Minister Porntiva Nakasai said that  Thailand could be used as a manufacturing and exporting center to countries beyond the region. Thai organic exports account for 0.21 per cent of the total global trade value of organic products, which is slated to reach $60 billion in 2010 . The country’s organic industry association expects the value of Thai organic exports will grow by 10 percent in 2011 to $119.5 million. Organic products targeted for export are rice, fruits, coffee, vegetables and garments.

Petchanet Pratruangkrai, "Porntiva urges farmers to pursue global organic market", The Nation, December 18, 2010, © National MultiMedia
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Indian Organic Industry Seeks To Boost Exports To $1 Billion By 2014

December 14, 2010: 09:10 AM EST

With India’s organic exports hovering at an unsatisfactory $110 million a year, the organic producers in the country have formed an association that will seek, among other goals, to boost organic exports to $1 billion within four years. To accomplish that, the new Organic Trade Association of India (OTC) is calling for removal of certain trade restrictions and is asking the government to support the specific needs of different organic product categories. The OTA says it will tackle farm, certification, regulatory and international trade issues. Shri Siddharth, India’s secretary for commerce and industry, told industry representatives that his agency will try to work with other government departments to boost organic exports. The government needs to be aware that some organic niche products are expensive and meant for export, not for public distribution.

"India's leading organic companies launch trade body", One India News, December 14, 2010, © One India News
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Trends Point To Growth For Organic Food And Farm Markets In 2011

December 13, 2010: 07:27 PM EST

The Organic Consumers Association has published its opinions on the leading trends in organic food and agriculture for the coming year. With consumer spending likely to be constrained for a while yet and the “new frugality” possibly here to stay, organic marketers have to communicate value and added benefits. Organic food also needs to tie in with broader environmental and sustainability trends. For example, the President's Cancer Panel reported in 2010 that babies were being born with up to 300 synthetic chemicals in their systems; other studies show that schoolchildren have 10-13 pesticides in their systems that almost disappear when switched to an organic diet. Additional issues to be addressed include demand for sustainable packaging, the leeching of cancer-causing chemicals from packaging, avoiding animal testing, and the effects of pesticides and GMO. Organic farming is growing, with more acreage being given over to it, younger people entering farming by focusing on organic agriculture, and urban agriculture based around organic food. These trends are supported by non-profit Slow Money, which has invested $3 million in sustainable food businesses.

Steven Hoffman, Compass Natural, "Top Organic Food and Farming Trends in 2011", Organic Consumers Association, December 13, 2010, © Compass Natural/Organic Consumers Association
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Chicago Area Attracts A Wide Variety Of Food Retailers

December 10, 2010: 11:03 AM EST

The Chicago metropolitan area with its demographically diverse nine million people is seeing an upsurge in growth among all shapes and sizes of food retailers, including organic and other “green” grocery stores, specialty foods stores, independents, discounters like Walmart and big chain supermarkets like Safeway. Whole Foods Market Inc. has opened 10 stores in the Chicago area, while Supervalu unit Jewel-Osco opened a “green” store that boasts eco-friendly features such as a vegetation-covered roof. Walmart plans to open several dozen stores in Chicago. And Dominick’s, part of Safeway Inc., and Jewel-Osco had a total of 248 stores, representing nearly 47 percent of the Chicago market, according to food industry researcher Shelby Publishing Co.

Bruce Blythe, "Chicago still a growth market for food retailers big and small", The Packer, December 10, 2010, © Merit Direct (The Packer)
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“Greenwashing” Catches On At Monsanto, Smithfield, Who Proclaim Themselves “Sustainable”

December 10, 2010: 10:56 AM EST

The largest pork producer in the U.S. – Smithfield Foods, Inc. – has joined genetically modified seed producer Monsanto in proclaiming itself a “sustainable” enterprise. New Hope 360 blogger Kelsey Blackwell says the term sustainable may soon join the ranks of other “meaningless eco claims” like “natural, green and earth smart.” Monsanto, which has been accused numerous times of environmentally unfriendly activities, including dumping toxic waste materials into rivers and landfills, recently unveiled a new motto: “The sustainable company.” It proclaims that “sustainable agriculture is at the core of Monsanto.” Smithfield recently hired a chief sustainability officer, yet the CEO said sustainability would be very difficult because of price demands of big customers like Walmart. Blackwell calls all of this “greenwashing,” a trend among firms well aware of growing consumer interest in environmentalism.

Kelsey Blackwell, "Another eco-label loses its street cred", New Hope 360, December 10, 2010, © Penton Media Inc
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Middle East Natural/Organic Products Expo Opens In Dubai

December 7, 2010: 10:04 AM EST

The eighth Middle East and Natural and Organic Product Expo (MENOPE 2010) is running from December 6-8 at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre. The Expo, which is the region's only niche showcase and trade platform for natural and organic products, has more than 100 exhibitors from 25 countries seeking to drum up business in the fast growing Middle East market for natural and organic products, currently estimated to be valued at over $300 million. According to Expo organizers, the regional market for organic and natural products is growing 20 percent a year, fueled by a growing interest among younger consumers in healthy and natural lifestyles. Products showcased at the Expo include herbals and spices, food and beverages, cereal products, supplements, health care products, natural cosmetics, healing products, natural remedies, etc.

"UAE Health Minister opens eighth edition of Middle East Natural and Organic Product Expo", News release, United Arab Emirates, December 07, 2010, via AME Info, © AME Info FZ LLC
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Kashi Company Reduces Packaging Of Several Products In A Bid to Help Conserve The Environment

December 6, 2010: 09:22 AM EST

In line with its commitment to environmental conservation, natural food manufacturer Kashi Company is avoiding excess waste by reducing the packaging of several of its product lines while maintaining the same food volume inside. Kashi TLC® crackers lead the package reduction with 12.4 percent less packaging, followed by TLC® Chewy Granola Bars at 10.9 percent. The company’s promotion of a healthy and natural lifestyle through products that are natural and minimally processed is reinforced by other initiatives such as the online resource Natural Nearby launched earlier this summer.

"Kashi Company Announces Food Packaging Reduction", PRNewswire, December 06, 2010, © PRNewswire
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P&G’s Maine Manufacturing Plant Is Its 9th Zero Waste To Landfill Site

December 6, 2010: 12:53 AM EST

Procter & Gamble’s Auburn, Maine feminine care manufacturing plant becomes its first production facility in North America to use all of its waste, sending none to landfill: 60 percent is recycled and the rest is incinerated to generate electricity, some of which is used at the site. Surplus electricity is sold to the local power company. P&G’s Global Asset Recovery Purchases team, working with employees and suppliers, has created a solution that not only diverts thousands of tons of waste from landfill, but also saves the company millions of dollars in costs. Auburn becomes the company’s ninth plant to reach zero waste to landfill and is part of P&G’s long-term aim to achieve zero waste to landfill throughout the company, with a 2020 goal of 0.5 percent. 

"P&G Announces Its First North American Manufacturing Plant to Achieve Zero Waste to Landfill ", Procter & Gamble, December 06, 2010, © Procter & Gamble
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Organic Farmers Must Be More Inventive When Protecting Crops From Pests

November 29, 2010: 09:52 AM EST

Organic farmers have to be more resourceful in protecting crops from pests, because they don’t have access to the chemical pesticides used by conventional farmers. Powerful organic bug sprays just don’t exist. But organic farmers have access to a growing body of knowledge about methods, known collectively as integrated pest management, to keep bugs at bay. That knowledge is growing at least partly because the 2008 farm bill provides $20 million a year to research organic pest control technologies. The funding supports 24 current research projects. A key finding so far: natural enemies are the cornerstone of organic pest control. Wild sunflowers, for example, provide a home to lady beetles and parasitic wasps that kill bad bugs; planting alyssum among lettuce plants attracts hoverflies that kill destructive aphids.

Jim Robbins, "Farmers Find Organic Arsenal to Wage War on Pests", N Y Times, November 29, 2010, © The New York Times Company
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US Organic Food Market Trends Remain Strong, Says New Marketsmonitor Report

November 25, 2010: 08:43 AM EST

Marketsmonitor has released a report on the organic food market in the US (“US Organic Food Market Analysis”). It is being driven by a population that has growing incomes and is increasingly aware of issues such as personal health, the environment, food safety and animal welfare. The research found that the US organic food market grew annually at between 16 and 21 percent in the period 2000 to 2008, and managed to survive the economic slowdown, with positive growth in 2009. The industry is expected to benefit further from government support as well as from the growing acceptance of organic food, and the authors forecast a CAGR of 13 percent in the 2010-2014 period. The picture in the US differs between regions, with interest in organic food stronger in states such as California, Wyoming, Texas, New Mexico, Wisconsin, and South Dakota.  

"US Organic Food Market Analysis by Marketsmonitor", Marketsmonitor.com, November 25, 2010, © Marketsmonitor.com
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Whole Foods Removes HFCS-Containing Products From California Stores, But Not Nationwide

November 24, 2010: 06:22 AM EST

Whole Foods said that starting in January 1, 2011, the company will stop selling products that contain high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in its stores in northern California. Whole Foods regional grocery buyer Parrish Placencia has admitted in an email that the company has “historically sold only a few products that contain HFCS.” This confirms some customers’ complaint that the company has been selling HFCS-containing products for some time. Whole Foods’ practice of using HFCS as an ingredient in its own pastries and cookies means the organic food retailer has no basis for selling these products at premium prices. The company indicates it  has no interest in removing HFCS-containing products from its stores nationwide.

Kelsey Blackwell, "Whole Foods drops products with high fructose corn syrup, kind of", New Hope 360 Blog, November 24, 2010, © New Hope 360
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EC Seeks To Make Farm Subsidy Payments More Equitable, But Also “Greener”

November 19, 2010: 09:40 AM EST

Hoping to update and make more fair its Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of subsidies for farmers, the European Commission has proposed a restructuring plan. The proposal calls for increasing subsidies to smaller East European farmers, but linking payments to environmental and food security goals. The EU several Central and East European countries in 2004, but the subsidy amounts are calculated based on production volumes of EU members in 2000-2002. Payments between old and new member states vary from €500 per hectare in Greece to less than €100 in Latvia. Debate on the new plan will start next July when the Commission proposes its budget for 2014-2020. The Commission said its other major priority is to promote the diversity of European agriculture with a rural policy that features "a green component".

"Brussels outlines vision for 'fairer' EU farm policy", EurActiv, November 19, 2010, © EurActiv
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OTA Disputes Fox Business News Report Touting Safety Of Conventional Produce

November 18, 2010: 09:34 AM EST

The Organic Trade Association (OTA), responding to a Fox Business News report that purportedly said chemically-grown produce is safer, said the only way consumers can minimize dietary exposure to pesticides is to purchase organic products. The OTA cited research by a Harvard assistant professor who has found that pesticide residues detected in the urine of children who eat conventionally produced fruits and vegetables disappear when children eat organic produce. Exposure to pesticides has been linked with higher risk of birth defects, the OTA said, as well as the onset of autism,  neurodevelopment problems in vulnerable fetuses and young children. “Consumers should know that organic foods have the least chemicals applied in their production and the least residues in the final products,” an OTA official said.

"Pesticides are a real health threat: Organic products offer a healthier choice", News release, Organic Trade Association, November 18, 2010, © Organic Trade Association
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Danish Bakery Chains Prosper Despite Recession And Opposing Philosophies

November 16, 2010: 09:03 AM EST

Two Danish bakery chains – Lagkagehuset  (“The Cake House) and Emmerys – with distinctly opposite points of view about baking are flourishing  despite harsh economic conditions. Lagkagehuset, whose12 stores offer various traditional pastries and fresh-baked breads, is expected to show a $31 million profit this year, nearly double last year’s earnings. Emmerys, which is focused on organic baked goods, has 23 outlets, each offering breads and desserts and imported gourmet organic products, including wines and coffees. Both companies charge a lot for their loaves, about $6. A British chef says the rise of the two bakery chains is “an amazing plus for the people of Copenhagen,” because they have given Danes “a new-found interest for one of the most fundamental elements of daily life.”

Natalia Rachlin, "Danish Bakery Chains Turn Carbohydrates to Gold", New York Times, November 16, 2010, © The New York Times Company
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Study Urges Simplified Federal Process For Approving Ingredients For Organic Foods

November 15, 2010: 10:16 AM EST

A study of the current federal system for defining and regulating organic foods, especially the review process used to add or remove nonorganic substances from the “National List,” finds it flawed. According to the study, the review and petition process does not support development of organic alternatives and may actually be a hindrance. The study recommends a simpler, more efficient process for approving substances for use in organic foods. It’s an urgent situation: as the multi-ingredient organic food sector continues to grow, USDA’s National Organic Program will be faced with more complex issues. According to the researchers, it might be better if the NOP, for example, were to “incentivize the development of organic ingredients and processes by setting clear guidelines and deadlines and providing development support to food manufacturers.”

Debra Van Camp, et al., "The Paradox of Organic Ingredients", Institute of Food Technologists, November 15, 2010, © Institute of Food Technologists
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Company’s Biodegradable Packaging To Be Used In U.K. Retailers Chocolate Boxes

November 14, 2010: 09:22 AM EST

British retailer Marks & Spencer’s entire Swiss chocolate range will be sold this Christmas in biodegradable plastic trays developed by Australian company Plantic Technologies. The innovative bioplastic, also called plantic, is manufactured using starch, is 100 percent compostable and dissolves completely in running water. Plantic, founded in 2003, has sales offices in Germany, Britain and the U.S., and employs about 50 people worldwide. The global biodegradable plastic packaging market is estimated by a British analyst to be worth $1.6 billion this year. However, the recession and falling oil prices have left the plastics market in a shambles. Plantic's shares on London's tech-oriented AIM exchange dropped sharply, from 80 pence to seven, but a plan is now underway to take the company’s stock private.

John Mangan, "Fantastic as plastic gets organic", The Age, November 14, 2010, © Fairfax Media
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Sustainability Remains A Priority Among Packaging Makers, Retailers

November 11, 2010: 09:37 PM EST

Eco-friendly packaging has become a major trend among packaging manufacturers, consumer products manufacturers and retailers who are working together to promote cost-effective sustainability, even in a sagging economy. For example, the customers of a company that distributes organic foods like Silk soy milk are keenly aware of fair labor and trade practices, food miles, the environmental impact of products, and package recyclability, so the company keeps this criteria in mind when making procurement decisions. Even troubled companies like Winn-Dixie have kept sustainability a priority, relying on suppliers to maintain green standards. An executive at Winn-Dixie says financial condition shouldn’t stand in the way of principles: “It is finding the niche in which, relative to your space, you can play a role in sustainability, that makes the right sense for a business model.”

Dan Hockensmith, "Experts say sustainability remains a dominant trend in packaging", PLASTICS NEWS, November 11, 2010, © Crain Communications Inc
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Organic Soups From Fig Foods Now Available At Whole Foods Market

November 11, 2010: 09:17 PM EST

U.S. organic food producer Fig Food Company says it is now offering its organic soups in the U.S. via Whole Foods Markets and other natural food stores. Ingredients for the soups, which are certified organic and kosher, come primarily from North American farms, the company says. The company offers four shelf-stable ready-to-eat varieties (Tuscan White Bean, Umbrian Lentil, Yucatan Black Bean, Gran Farro e Fagioli) and three condensed varieties (Tomato, Wheatberry and Split Pea). The company’s mission is to provide healthy plant-based foods that contribute to fossil fuel independence and a reduction of greenhouse gases. The company plans to expand beyond soups to other ready-to-eat meals in the future.

"Fig Food(TM) Company Brings Delicious Heart Healthy Soups to U.S. Consumers", News release, Fig Food Company, November 11, 2010, © Fig Food Company
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U.S. Organic Food Market One Of The Fastest Growing Industries

November 12, 2010: 06:16 AM EST

A report, “US Organic Food Market Analysis,” says that the U.S. organic food market has been one of the fastest growing industries, with average annual growth of 16%-21% in 2000-2008. As the world’s biggest economy, with one of the highest per capita incomes, the U.S. has the ingredients for the organic food market to expand and flourish, with compound annual growth rate forecast at 13% in 2010-2014. Rising awareness about environmental protection, food safety, health, and animal welfare are some of the factors that drive market growth. Government support and the growing demand for organic and natural products are pushing further the growth of the organic niche for the food and beverages industry.

"US Organic Food Market Analysis", Research and Markets, November 12, 2010, © Research and Markets
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Huge Greenhouse Taking Shape Atop Two-Storey Office Building In Montreal

November 11, 2010: 09:22 PM EST

Construction of a 31,000-square-foot commercial greenhouse atop a two-story office building in Montreal, Canada, is almost finished. Developers of the project say planting could begin in January and the first harvest reaped six weeks after that. Urban farming, including rooftop gardening, are not a new phenomenon, but the large scale of the Montreal project sets it apart from previous efforts. The idea is to provide fresh produce for the community all year long, regardless of weather conditions. One of the entrepreneurs working on the project says food shipped thousands of miles is handled at many stages. The shipping affects taste and freshness. "Our goal simply is to be a neighborhood food source and raise the bar on the issue of traceability,” he says.

Leslie Guevarra, "A Vision for a Commercial-Scale Rooftop 'Farm' Nears Completion", GreenBiz, November 11, 2010, © GreenBiz Group
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Organic Private Labels Outgrow Organic Food Brands; The Future For Organic?

November 11, 2010: 07:16 AM EST

Retailer organic private labels are growing faster than organic brands in the international organic food market, perhaps indicating the future for organic food. In the US, for example, Safeway’s private label, O Organics, launched in 2005, looks set to become the leading brand of organic foods. O Organics has over 300 organic products with sales in excess of $400 million. While in Germany, a drugstore’s private label is the leading brand of organic & natural cosmetics.  Retailers are pushing a price advantage and often their organic products are cheaper than conventional ones.  As private labels increase their share of the organic market organic brands must revise their branding strategies. Green & Black for instance, has positioned itself as an ethical brand, while Organic Valley, in the US, increasingly positions itself as a supporter of family farms and a proponent of sustainability.

"The Future of Organic Products: Brands of Retailer Private Labels?", Organic Monitor, November 11, 2010, © Organic Monitor
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Grant Will Support Research Into Better Safety Procedures For Organic Leafy Greens

November 10, 2010: 11:39 AM EST

As U.S. food producers turn more to certified organic farming systems for a variety of reasons, they need better methods of ensuring the safety and post-harvest quality of organic leafy greens, including spinach, lettuce, arugula, cabbage and radicchio. The USDA is expediting the search for better safety methods with a $2.9 million grant to a University of Arizona researcher whose  comprehensive project will examine every step in the process, from field to fork. Since the late 1990s, U.S. organic production has grown steadily, the USDA says: more than two-thirds of U.S. consumers now buy organic products at least occasionally; 28 percent buy organic products weekly. The researchers will look at ways to eliminate bacterial – especially E. coli and salmonella – contamination in bagged leafy greens using organic methods.

Daniel Stolte, "Improving safety and quality of organic leafy greens", News release, University of Arizona, November 10, 2010, © Univ. of Arizona
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Consumers Need To Be Wary Of Egg Cartons Stamped “USDA Organic”

November 10, 2010: 03:01 AM EST

A new, large egg recall may push consumers toward organic eggs to avoid contamination, but the Cornucopia Institute is warning consumers that what they see on the egg carton – the “USDA organic” label – may not be what they get. According to the Institute, many cartons so labeled come from big agribusiness farms that distribute mass produced eggs from warehoused chickens. The Institute says the hen houses of fraudulent producers are packed with birds. A door at the end of the facility is not useable by the chickens, but the companies sell their products as "free range," skirting USDA guidelines. “The chickens are never let out to graze or be in sunlight,” the Institute said. The birds are force-fed commercial chicken feed and injected with antibiotics or vaccines with toxins, violating organic rules.

"Egg Recalls Push More Consumers Toward 'Organic;" But Watch Out", News release, Cornucopia Institute, November 10, 2010, © Cornucopia Institute
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Curb Launches Natural Grass As Indoor Advertising Medium

November 10, 2010: 01:44 AM EST

In a sign of the growing eco-awareness in advertising, U.K.-based natural advertising media vendor Curb has launched its DesignGrass, a natural grass that can be used as an indoor advertising medium. The grass is flexible and can be formed into various shapes, patterns, brands, or words. Good for creating indoor green spaces, users can install DesignGrass on surfaces including walls and ceilings. Another product, the FlexiGrass offers functionality as a soilless living carpet for both indoor and outdoor environments. Requiring minimal, FlexiGrass can be molded, shaped, and colored based on users’ requirements.

"Living Grass as a Low-impact, Indoor Advertising Medium", Springwise, November 10, 2010, © Springwise
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Fairtrade Organization Rebuts Critical Report From IEA

November 9, 2010: 03:05 AM EST

The Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International has issued a rebuttal to a report by the Institute of Economic Affairs that FLO feels was incorrect on several points. The IEA, for example, was wrong to imply that Fairtrade offers no long-term strategy for development. Certified organic cotton farmers in Mali earn 50 percent more than conventional farmers, allowing almost all (95 percent) of their children to attend school, which contributes to long-term growth. Fairtrade does focus on the poorest countries: forty-seven percent of the 870,000 small scale farmers in the system are in East Africa. FLO acknowledged that certification costs money – about $1,570 for 50 farmers – but cost is not a barrier to certification. The Producer Certification Fund covers up to 75 percent of the fee for eligible organizations.

"Fairtrade Responds to the Institute of Economic Affairs Report", News release, Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International, November 09, 2010, © Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International
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Syntroleum-Tyson Foods Joint Venture Turns Animal Fats Into Renewable Fuels

November 8, 2010: 03:41 AM EST

Dynamic Fuels LLC, an equal-share joint venture of Syntroleum Corporation and Tyson Foods, Inc., began commercial operations at its plant, which uses Syntroleum’s Bio-Synfining technology to convert non-food grade animal fats and greases into renewable fuels. The new facility produces 2,500 barrels of fuels per day from animal fats produced or acquired by Tyson Foods. Designed to manufacture as much as 75 million gallons of renewable fuels per year, the plant employs 44 full-time workers on site and 13 start-up support staff. The plant started shipping renewable diesel that meets ASTM D975 specifications in October, and has begun producing jet fuel for testing by the Air Force Research Laboratory. Dynamic Fuels hopes that Congress will restore tax credits, which could help improve the plant’s financial feasibility.

Tyson Foods, "First U.S. Commercial Scale Advanced Biofuels Plant Opens", Tyson Foods press release, November 08, 2010, © Tyson Foods, Inc.
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Chocolate Industry Faces Serious Shortage of Cocoa Supply, Sharply Higher Prices

November 8, 2010: 05:00 AM EST

Industry analysts are warning that the chocolate industry faces a cocoa shortage and much steeper prices as chocolate consumption increases faster than cocoa production, which faces serious headwinds. African cocoa farmers are abandoning their farms due to negligible returns, a problem compounded by soil depletion. Meanwhile, a change in weather systems has hit crops in Indonesia, the world’s third-largest cocoa producer.  As cocoa supplies declined, prices have risen, doubling in the last six years, a trend set to continue. John Mason, executive director and founder of the Ghana-based Nature Conservation Research Council, forecasts that “In 20 years chocolate will be like caviar. It will become so rare and so expensive that the average Joe just won't be able to afford it."

Anthea Gerrie, "Chocolate: Worth its weight in gold?", Telegraph.co.uk, November 08, 2010, © independent.co.uk
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Sustainable Packaging Grows Much Faster Than Rest Of Global Packaging Market

November 8, 2010: 01:54 AM EST

The market worldwide for sustainable packaging is growing much faster than the rest of the packaging industry. A recent report by Pike Research forecasts the environment-friendly packaging market to double in size from $88 billion in 2009 to $170 billion in 2014, while Global Industry Analysts predicts the market to reach $142 billion by 2015 despite the economic slowdown. Factors driving the market include growing awareness about environmental impact of packaging wastes and government rules and initiatives seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Europe and the U.S. account for over 70% of the world sustainable packaging market, with recycled material as its largest category; and biodegradables, the fastest-growing segment. EL Insights forecasts sustainable packaging will be used in 37% of products sold by big U.S. retailers by 2015.

"Quick growth of green packaging market", enorm_magazin , November 08, 2010, © enorm magazine
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Detergent Manufacturers in Australia Face Campaign To Remove Phosphate From Their Products

November 7, 2010: 12:52 AM EST

Australian environmentalist Jon Dee, via his organization Do Something!, plans to launch a countrywide campaign calling on retailers Coles and Woolworths to prompt manufacturers Unilever and Reckitt Benckiser to reduce the phosphate content of their laundry powders and dishwasher tablets. Popular detergent brands being sold in Australia contain high levels of phosphate, which is being removed from detergents in markets overseas due to their negative impact on waterways, such as promotion of algal blooms. The U.S. and the European Union have announced policies for stricter control of phosphate in detergent products. Phosphate, which helps break down dirt, is regulated through the Phosphorus Standard managed by the ACCORD industry group that counts Unilever, Colgate, and Reckitt Benckiser as members.

Tim Barlass , "Call to clean up our detergents", Sydney Morning Herald, November 07, 2010, © Fairfax Media
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Walmart To Launch Sustainable Farming Initiatives And Looks To Iowa Farmers For Ideas

November 7, 2010: 02:47 AM EST

Walmart plans to launch initiatives that will promote sustainable, environment-friendly agriculture and double sales of locally grown food by 2015. Seeking to improve soil quality and conserve water and fossil fuels, the retailer has visited farms in Iowa to learn about sustainable farming practices that it could incorporate into its programs. Agriculture groups are closely watching the company’s efforts, which, considering the company’s leadership role in retail, can have significant implications for the country’s farming sector. Meanwhile, environmentalists and sustainability proponents want to know whether Walmart will go far enough with its proposed sustainable-farming standards, which are being developed through the Sustainability Consortium, an organization that counts several agribusiness companies as members. Ultimately, Walmart wants to develop a means of measuring products’ impact on the environment, which would help guide consumers in choosing sustainable goods.

PHILIP BRASHER, "Walmart wants Iowans to farm by its principles ", The Des Moines Register, November 07, 2010, © The Des Moines Register
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Organic Farming Research Group Launches In-Depth Study Of The State Of Organic Agriculture

November 5, 2010: 10:28 AM EST

A nonprofit organization that sponsors organic farming research has launched a broad research effort to examine all of the possible benefits of organic agriculture. The Organic Farming Research Foundation says it has hired a team of researchers that plans to release findings in the spring of 2011. Initially, researchers will scour existing scientific literature and analyze data. Research leaders include Carolyn Dmitri, a former USDA economist who will review the scientific literature, and Loni Kemp, an agriculture policy analyst who will synthesize results and make policy recommendations. The researchers also hope to identify gaps in research on organic farming that might point to future studies. “The time is right for a comprehensive assessment of the state of organic research and policy regarding the benefits of organic production,” Dimitri said.

"OFRF To Compile Science On Organic Farming Benefits", The Organic Farming Research Foundation, November 05, 2010, © The Organic Farming Research Foundation
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Pepsi Wins Accolades With Corporate Social Responsibility Program

November 5, 2010: 04:13 AM EST

A consumer survey by Edelman finds that Pepsi is ranked the #1 brand that places at least as much importance on a good cause as on making a profit.  In explaining this achievement, PepsiCo Americas Beverages communications director Melisa Tezanos, underlines the importance of the corporate banner ,"Performance with Purpose," and also the company’s Pepsi Refresh Project corporate social responsibility program, which aims to “empower people to put their great ideas into action.”  The Pepsi Refresh website (www.RefreshEverything.com) has achieved over 2.8 billion media impressions, with more than 50 million votes cast and more than 4.3 million registered as voters. Tezanos is enthusiastic about the program and indicates that Pepsi plans to roll it out globally in 2011.

"Pepsi exec dishes on Pepsi Refresh, future plans for cause marketing", USA Today, November 05, 2010, © USA Today
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Whole Foods Posts 15% Sales Growth In Fourth Quarter; Raises Outlook

November 5, 2010: 01:19 AM EST

In the quarter to September 26, 2010, Whole Foods Market Inc., posted a 15-percent increase in sales and surpassed the $2 billion mark. Same-store sales growth increased 8.7 percent in the quarter, demonstrating that overall growth was not just attributable to adding stores. Co-CEO John Mackey, said the company's performance outpaced expectations and praised the company's relative pricing; he also pointed to the company’s efforts to reinforce its position as a leader in the healthy and organic foods market with initiatives focused on “healthy eating, animal welfare and sustainable seafood.” The company opened one store in the quarter to give a total of 301 and expects to open three more in Q1 2011.

Ken Black, "Whole Foods Market Reports Fourth Quarter Results", Whole Foods, November 05, 2010, © Whole Foods Market IP, L.P.
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Dutch Palm Oil Industry Promises Commitment To Sustainable Production

November 4, 2010: 07:52 AM EST

Noting that it is “committed to making worldwide palm oil production more sustainable,” the Dutch palm oil industry has issued a “manifesto” to the government proclaiming that all palm oil used in The Netherlands will be certified according to RSPO principles and criteria by 2015. Demand for palm oil is rising worldwide due to growing prosperity in China and India and increased use in biofuels. The result is expansion of oil palm plantation areas in producing countries and potential reduction of tropical rainforest. The eight industry groups that are party to the manifesto  represent palm oil refiners, processors and retail firms that market palm oil-based products, such as processed foods (e.g., margarine, ice cream and biscuits), cosmetics and personal care products (e.g., soap and lipstick), and biodiesel. 

"Manifesto of the Task Force Sustainable Palm Oil Initiative to promote the use of RSPO certified palm oil in the Netherlands", Task Force for Sustainable Palm Oil, November 04, 2010, © The Dutch Task Force Sustainable Palm Oil
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Organic Produce Prospers On U.S. East, West Coasts

November 4, 2010: 07:43 AM EST

America’s heartland – the vast Midwest – is apparently the only dead spot in the otherwise prosperous organic produce industry. East Coast growers are flourishing and Northern California’s organic growers are doing well, with some posting double-digit annual growth as high as 20 percent. According to the Organic Trade Association, the slack economy hasn’t dampened the overall growth rate: organic sales increased 5.1 percent in 2009 and now account for more than 11 percent of nationwide produce sales. Berries and bananas are driving growth, according to the OTA. Year-on-year sales of Chiquita organic bananas rose more than 25 percent, the company says. Industry observers cite public concern for health issues, increased interest in local and sustainable agriculture and less inclination to spend money on expensive electronic gadgets as reasons for organic prosperity.

Tom Burfield, "Organic produce sales strong everywhere but Midwest", The Packer, November 04, 2010, © Vance Publishing Corporation
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U.K.’s Organic Food Organization To Launch Ad Campaign To Dispel Myths, Boost Sales

November 3, 2010: 11:08 AM EST

The U.K.’s  Organic Trade Board (OTB) is launching a three-year advertising campaign in January to get the word out on the benefits of buying organic food, whose sales fell 13 percent in 2009. The Board has hired the Haygarth agency to help it “democratize” organic food, broaden its appeal and hopefully boost sales through a new Web site, public relations, online ads and social media. According to a spokesperson for the OTB, the goal of the ad campaign is to “break down the myths … that organic is fancy food for posh people.”

Rosie Baker, " Organic food body readies campaign to revive sales", Marketing Week, UK, November 03, 2010, © Centaur Media plc
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Indonesia’s Organic Certification System Leaves Something To Be Desired

November 1, 2010: 07:33 AM EST

Indonesian shoppers are caught up in the trend toward healthier diets, and that often means switching to organic foods. But the search for certified organic products can be confusing because the country’s certification system is not airtight, and is therefore not particularly reliable. One organic food expert in Indonesia says the problem is due to the fact that the government doesn’t require food suppliers to have their products certified organic. The certification process began as voluntary, permitting suppliers to make whatever organic claims they wanted. However,  the government later introduced a system that involved seven official certifying bodies. Farmers, traders and suppliers submit products to these certification authorities. It’s a process that’s too expensive for small farmers, however, and lends itself to corruption.

Ika Krismantari, "Organic tag confuses buyers, sellers", The Jakarta Post, November 01, 2010, © PT Bina Media Tenggara
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Big Retailers, Club Stores Post Big Sales In The Organic Food Sector

October 30, 2010: 11:06 AM EST

Despite tough economic times, U.S. sales of organic food and beverages were $26.6 billion in 2009, 5.1 percent higher than in 2008, according to the Organic Trade Association. The performance indicates that Americans are striking a balance between healthy eating and unhealthy spending. That’s a lot of organic food purchasing, and the volume is due at least in part to the fact that traditional supermarkets, club stores and mass merchandisers are showing increased sales. Those stores – Kroger, Safeway, Publix, Trader Joe’s, Walmart, Costco, etc. – accounted for 54 percent of the organic food sold in 2009, followed by natural retailers at 38 percent. Industry observers believe the retailers are doing well in organic sales because of their reputation for competitive pricing.

Jennifer Strailey, "Making Waves in Natural and Organic", Progressive Grocer, October 30, 2010, © Stagnito Media
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Premium Chocolate Makers Are Committed To Quality And Green Sourcing

October 30, 2010: 11:01 AM EST

High end Swiss and French chocolatiers are turning out luxury chocolates using cocoa beans produced organically around the world, demonstrating a commitment to both quality and ethical sourcing. Swiss chocolate maker Bonnat, for example, pioneered the use of organic cocoa beans out of principle 17 years ago, and now works with 35 certified organic suppliers in South America who are paid premium prices for their product. According to Stephane Bonnat, 80 percent of cocoa growers are de facto organic – because they cannot afford fertilizers or pesticides – but are not certified because the process is too expensive.  Another chocolatier says using ethically sourced cocoa beans is expensive, adding 20 percent to production costs. But the result is high quality chocolate – and significant financial and lifestyle gains for the farmers.

"Master chocolatiers give green cocoa a boost", The Independent, October 30, 2010, © Independent Print Limited
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To Counter Demand Weakness Organic Farmers Told To Stress Sustainability

October 22, 2010: 10:13 PM EST

According to Patrick Holden, retired director of the Soil Association, recent faltering demand for organic produce is due to a number of factors: negative reactions from traditional farmers, PR campaigns against organic, consumers’ perceptions of exclusivity, a lack of understanding of the benefits of organic agriculture, and the impact of the weak economy shifting purchases to lower-cost items. Instead of stressing ‘organic’, Holden argues that suppliers emphasize ‘sustainable agriculture’ and ‘sustainability’ that he sees as a more attractive and enduring message.

Barry Alston, "Organic farmers 'must improve image' - Holden", Farmers Guardian, UK, October 22, 2010, © UBM Information Ltd
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