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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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Research Assesses Impact Of Climate Change On Food Safety And Availability Of Healthy Food In Britain

October 21, 2010: 12:08 PM EST

Research conducted by the U.K.’s University of East Anglia for the Food Standards Agency (FSA) suggests that decreased food availability will lead to higher prices and push consumers towards processed foods with higher sugar and fat content. The researchers believe that the FSA, which is charged with protecting the public's health and consumer interests in relation to food, will have to boost efforts to encourage healthier eating including using nutritional surveys and enhanced monitoring. While the researchers point to the need for additional work on a number of fronts to better understand likely upcoming changes and the impact on food supply, they also suggest that increased pathogens and additional food-borne disease and other changing risks will intensify unpredictability and require broader oversight to isolate new risks. 

Dr Iain Lake, Dr Asmaa Abdelhamid, Dr Lee Hooper, "Food and Climate change: A review of the effects of climate change on food within the remit of the Food Standards Agency", Food Standards Agency, October 21, 2010, © Food Standards Agency
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New ‘Replenish’ Line Hopes To Deliver A More Environmentally Sensitive Cleaning Product Using Concentrate Pods That Consumers Dilute

October 19, 2010: 02:45 AM EST

In the continuing trend to deliver traditional products in more environmentally sensitive ways, Replenish has launched a new line of surface cleaners that relies on consumers diluting a concentrate solution. Replenish sells pods that contain cleaner concentrate along with a specially designed reusable spray bottle into which the pod fits; consumers add water to obtain a traditional strength cleaning spray. The company sells the reusable bottle and the initial pod for $7.99 and each pod, which is enough for four bottles of cleaner, for $3.99, compared to about $4.00 for a single bottle of Windex.

"Replenish Cleaning Products: You Provide the Water (And Help Save the Earth)", Fast Co Design, October 19, 2010, © Mansueto Ventures, LLC
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Demand For Greener Packaging Expected To Drive Growth In Bioplastics

October 18, 2010: 02:36 AM EST

A growing demand for environment-friendly packaging and products is expected to drive the world’s bioplastics industry to grow 30% a year in the coming decade, although plastics made from plant material currently represents just 0.2% of all plastic consumed each year . Biomass is used to replace petroleum products in the manufacture of plastics, reducing demand for fossil fuels and improving biodegradability. Some chemical companies, such as BASF in Germany, are expanding bioplastics capacity to meet the expected demand from consumer goods manufacturers like Procter & Gamble Co. and Johnson & Johnson Inc., both of which have switched to plant-based resins for packaging some of their brands. Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are also exploring applications for bioplastics. While environmentalists in general support renewable energy initiatives, they have some reservations about biodegradable plastics, which still go into landfill. Bioplastics are also generally still more expensive than traditional plastics, and the chemical companies are relying on some consumers being willing to pay more for greener options. A return to very high oil prices will also make bioplastics more competitive.

MARA LEMOS STEIN and NAUREEN S. MALIK , "Just One Word: Bioplastics ", Wall Street Journal, October 18, 2010, © Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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Growth In Organic Food Demand Provides Opportunities For Women Farmers

October 14, 2010: 10:35 AM EST

With Canadian farming characterized by highly-mechanized, high-yield, large-scale farms, the growth in demand for organic good is providing opportunities for women to become more involved in what has become a male-dominated industry. Although women have played a key part in family farming businesses, they often didn’t get the recognition they deserved, and their role has decreased as farm sizes increased. Today, 30 percent of organic farmers are women. They seem better suited to smaller-scale farming: they are less focused on yield and profit, and more focused on the community and family health. According to one female organic farmer, women are changing the face of farming in Canada, with a long-term perspective that recognizes food needs to be produced sustainably.

Mary Teresa Bitti, "Taking the lead - Women drawn by organic farming focus on healthy food, healthy communities", Edmonton Journal, October 14, 2010, © Postmedia Network Inc
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Wal-Mart’s Massive Global Food Business To Add More Local Sustainable Food

October 14, 2010: 03:22 AM EST

As part of its five-year global effort to shrink the company’s environmental footprint, the world’s biggest retail grocer will buy 9 percent of its U.S. produce from local, sustainably-run farms; an increase of 100 percent. Considering that Wal-Mart’s food business represents a large proportion of its $400 million annual sales, this move has significant consequences for U.S. farmers located in states where Wal-Mart operates. To further its sustainability impact, the retail giant plans to evaluate the production and shipping efficiencies of large suppliers and help small (under 50 acres) and mid-size farmers, particularly in emerging economies, to build more ecologically-aware operations. Part of the commitment includes selling $1 billion of produce from one million farms. In addition, Wal-Mart will spend over $1 billion to address spoilage and reduce waste by 10 percent in the U.S., expecting to improve profitability for itself and suppliers, and it has announced sustainable sourcing initiatives for palm oil and beef. Despite reservations from some, experts say that Wal-Mart’s plans will significantly advance local and global sustainability.

STEPHANIE CLIFFORD, "Wal-Mart to Buy More Local Produce", New York Times , October 14, 2010, © The New York Times Company
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Online Store Abe’s Market Uses Producer Stories To Sell Natural Products

October 13, 2010: 10:54 AM EST

Start-up organic product aggregator, Abe’s Market, opened last year using a seemingly contradictory concept: use personal, local-feeling merchant profiles and stories to add the ‘farmers-market-like’ sensation to buying online. Online sales reached $155 billion last year but are soulless and devoid of human contact. At the same time, farmers markets are rising in popularity, with their number doubling in the last decade.  Abe’s Market hopes to bridge the gap with high-touch merchandizing and personal stories. Its business model relies on specialization – separating manufacturing from distribution – and charging its merchants, many of whom have their own online stores, a 30% fee. Revenues, so far, are unremarkable but angel investor, Toby Coppel, believes Abe’s buyers are “passionate about organic and natural products and want to connect with the people behind the products.”

JESSICA BRUDER, "Turning Business Owners Into Stars of Their Own Stories", The New York Times, October 13, 2010, © The New York Times
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Kimberly-Clark Launches Smart Flush To Save Water

October 11, 2010: 02:17 AM EST

Seeking to raise public awareness of how wasteful toilet flushing is and to help consumers do their part for water conservation, Kimberly-Clark launched the Smart Flush bag, a device that inflates when put inside a toilet tank, cutting the volume of water used in each flush by as much as one liter. Praised by retailers for letting consumers join water conservation efforts easily, the device is given for free exclusively to buyers of 8-pack and 12-pack Scott Naturals bath tissues, which contain 40% recycled fiber and packaged using recycled plastic.

Julie Gallagher, "Paper Products Update", Supermarket News, October 11, 2010, © Penton Media, Inc.
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Study Shows At Least 83 Percent Of U.K. Shoppers Have Concerns About Buying Organic

October 8, 2010: 10:07 AM EST

Research indicates that organic food marketers in the U.K. have an opportunity to convert a significant part of the population if they can address perceptions of high cost and low value-added. U.K. shoppers see two primary issues with purchasing organic goods: the first is high cost, an issue for 58 percent of respondents in a recent study conducted by YouGov SixthSense. The second, identified by another 25 percent, is lack of a comparative advantage over non-organic foods. A researcher involved in the study points to the reality that, “many organic lines are coming down in price, and in some cases are equal to, or cheaper than standard branded products.” The small percentage (13%) that buy organic exclusively include well-off, urban, females over 25 who own homes, are single, and well-educated.

YouGov SixthSense and Stephen O'Connor, "Overpriced organics", YouGov SixthSense report, October 08, 2010, © YouGov
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Walmart Works With Worldwise To Recycle Waste Materials Into Green Pet Products

October 7, 2010: 01:21 AM EST

Walmart is launching a program with green pet products maker Worldwise, Inc., that will turn Walmart’s salvageable waste materials – including plastic bottles, bags, cardboard, and hangers – into pet products sold in Walmart stores. Recycled products that will hit the shelves this month include dog beds made from bottles, cat scratchers from cardboard and litter pans from hangers. Walmart’s sustainability goals include a commitment to “creating zero waste,” according to a senior executive, and “the closed loop partnership with Worldwise is a perfect example of how retailers and suppliers can cooperate to innovate and achieve greater sustainability.” Worldwise says its efforts will keep the equivalent of more than 100 million 16.9 oz. plastic bottles out of landfills, about 25 million of which will come from Walmart and Sam's Clubs.

"Trend Towards More Sustainable Products Gets Boost With New Worldwise-Walmart Partnership", PRNewswire, October 07, 2010, © PR Newswire Association LLC
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More Companies Join the March for Sustainable Packaging

October 7, 2010: 01:34 AM EST

A new report by the Global Industry Analysts, Inc., forecasts the world’s sustainable packaging market to reach US$142.42 billion in 2015. Meanwhile, the Sustainable Packaging Alliance says that packaging can only be considered sustainable if it satisfies these four criteria: socially and economically beneficial; efficient use of materials, energy, and water; cyclic or recyclable through industrial or natural systems; and safe or non-polluting and non-toxic. While a survey by Procter & Gamble Professional showed that companies favor environmental responsibility but are confused over how to go about it, several leading businesses, such as Apple, Boeing, Chevrolet, Clorox, Green Mountain Coffee Roaster, and HBO, are doing their shares to promote environment-friendly business practices.

Hayden Norris, "Green Branding Watch: Boeing, Apple, P&G and more", Eco Institution, October 07, 2010, © Green Consulting
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Walmart Brings Mexican, Central American Suppliers Up-To-Date On Eco-Goals

October 7, 2010: 01:15 AM EST

Walmart’s recent two-day forum for Mexican and Central American suppliers outlined the giant retailer’s plans for reducing its environmental impact in those regions. The retailer’s long-term commitment to support eco-friendly best practices includes three long-term global objectives: to create zero waste, to use 100 percent renewable energy, and to sell products that sustain the environment. In Mexico, for example, the company’s first wind energy facility provides energy to 348 Walmart Mexico stores. Walmart hopes that, by the end of 2015, it will: limit greenhouse gas emissions growth to half the rate of sales floor expansion, reduce energy consumption by 13 percent (over 2009 levels), recycle or reuse 80 percent of waste, reuse 60 percent of treated water, and reduce all water consumption by 30 percent.

"For Walmart Mexico, Sustainability Is a Group Effort", TreeHugger.com, October 07, 2010, © TreeHugger.com
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Roundup-Treated GM Foods Linked To Cause Birth Defects and Cancer

October 6, 2010: 09:13 AM EST

Scientific studies show that glyphosate, an active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup Ready herbicide, is linked to high increases in reproductive problems and early childhood health issues. Of particular concern is the use of Roundup on 90% of the soy crops in North America, along with growing usage in South American crop production. Soy, frequently used in infant formula and by nursing mothers, may be linked to a 300% increase in childhood cancer and a 400% increase in birth defects in Argentina over the last decade.  Advocacy groups want countries to mandate proper labeling and force retailers to pull products contaminated by genetic modification, especially baby formula, from their shelves.

Josette Dunn, "GM soy linked to birth defects, cancer: new study", AFN, October 06, 2010
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Frito-Lay Drops Noisy Biodegradable Chip Bags After Consumer Complaints

October 6, 2010: 10:20 AM EST

Frito-Lay’s implementation of its commitment to eco-friendly packaging has backfired. Biodegradable bags for multigrain Sun Chips, released to stores in January, have been pulled from the market because of consumer complaints on social Web sites and elsewhere that the bags are too noisy. The discontent with the new bags has driven down sales, as consumers have shied away from purchasing them. Meanwhile, Frito-Lay continues to look for a quieter variety of compostable packaging. "We chose to respond to the consumer feedback but still want to show that we are committed" to compostable packaging, a company spokesman said.

Suzanee Vranica, "Sun Chips Bag to Lose Its Crunch", The Wall Street Journal, October 06, 2010, © Dow Jones & Company
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Gardens Sprout Up Among Independent Restaurants As Part Of “Eat Local” Movement

October 5, 2010: 09:57 AM EST

The National Restaurant Association says a third of 2,000 members polled recently said they have signed on to the “eat local food” movement by planting gardens to produce their own vegetables. The poll results suggest that restaurant gardens are a hot trend in the restaurant industry and is likely to gather steam, because growing produce costs restaurants less than buying it and having it shipped, gives them more quality control and allows them to use locally grown foods. An NRA representative said independent restaurants are more likely to plant gardens because they have more seasonal menu flexibility. Most start small, growing a few basics, but then expand. A restaurant in Michigan, for example, eventually tripled the size of its garden, expanding from tomatoes to include squash, peppers, etc.

Michael J. Crumb (AP), "Chefs name gardens top restaurant trend of 2010", Associated Press (via Yahoo!), October 05, 2010, © The Associated Press
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Sustainable Foods Linked With Superfoods Among Consumers - Report

October 5, 2010: 09:45 AM EST

An increasing consumer demand for products that can provide functional solutions to their health needs and help them live lifestyles that are more eco-friendly are two key trends driving  the global food and drinks industry, according to a report from market research clearinghouse Reportlinker. Sixty-five percent of industry respondents said consumers interested in sustainable foods are also likely to be interested in superfoods, indicating that the two trends share many of the same drivers. Sustainable superfoods were considered most relevant in the bakery and cereals, dairy foods, ready meals and soft drinks categories. Nestlé and Unilever headed the sustainability list, though other global brands were further down. Nestlé is the market leader for positive health claims by a significant margin, followed by Kraft and Danone.

"Reportlinker Adds Growth Opportunities in Sustainable and Positive Health Food and Drinks: Key Innovations, Leading Company Strategies and How to Benefit From Overlap of Ethical and Superfoods Overlap", PRNewswire, October 05, 2010, © PRNewswire
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Court Says Ohio Must Require Food Labels To Disclose Synthetic Hormones

September 30, 2010: 11:42 AM EST

A federal appellate court has invalidated several provisions in Ohio Dept. of Agriculture organic food rules that, according to the Organic Trade Association, cramped consumers’ and producers’ ability to get truthful label information about the use of synthetic hormones in organic milk and dairy products. Organic farmers who want to apply the organic label to their products are barred from using synthetic growth hormones, genetically engineered organisms (GMOs), antibiotics and toxic, persistent, synthetic pesticides. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit agreed with the OTA and a dairy farmers group that consumers in Ohio have the right to know whether purpotedly organic products on grocery store shelves are produced without synthetic growth hormones.

"Organic dairy products produced free from synthetic growth hormones- Consumers Win Right to Know", News release, Organic Trade Association , September 30, 2010, © Organic Trade Association
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Worried About Fluoride In Toothpaste? Natural Herbal Alternatives Abound

October 1, 2010: 03:24 AM EST

Natural, herbal-based products for oral health that avoid dubious non-natural ingredients have been added to the arsenal of traditional weapons against tooth decay and gum disease. Examples of undesirable ingredients in standard oral care products include fluoride, the foaming agent sodium lauryl sulfate and artificial colors and flavors. While accepted as safe, some health care providers say excessive use of fluoride among children causes fluorosis – brown spots or streaks on teeth. A variety of natural alternatives are available, product providers say. Ancient ayurvedic herbs provide astringent and antibacterial action, without fluoride. Other options include the popular antiseptic tea tree oil, neem tree bark, and the antibacterial sweetener xylitol. Some products contribute to dental nutrition by including coenzyme Q10 with perilla seed oil, vitamin C and blue-green algae.

Steve Myers , "The Natural Mouth", Natural Products Marketplace, October 01, 2010, © Virgo Publishing, LLC.
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Rising Prices Of Green Coffee Beans Worry Naturals Retailers

September 27, 2010: 05:57 AM EST

As the price of Green Arabica coffee beans rose 31 percent to $1.90 per pound, achieving a 13-year high, coffee companies have begun to raise their prices. Fair trade coffee supplier Green Mountain Coffee Roasters is hiking prices by 10 to 15 percent on its K-Cup single-serving portion packs in October. Other natural product retailers say they’re not sure what the impact of the higher prices of green coffee beans. Some retailers say they are flexible enough to absorb some short-term price increases, while others indicate cost increases will be passed on to consumers. Starbucks has raised prices on some of its coffee drinks and said it could raise prices for packaged coffee sold in grocery stores.

Jane Hoback, "Naturals retailers keeping an eye on rising coffee bean prices", Natural Food Merchandiser, September 27, 2010, © Penton Media Inc
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Natural Foods Maker Launches Campaign To Encourage Kids To Plant Veggies

September 27, 2010: 06:03 AM EST

Natural and organic foods maker Annie's has launched a national campaign to encourage schoolchildren to "dig" or learn about new vegetables this fall and to plant vegetables next spring. The goal of the campaign is to involve parents and teachers in recruiting a million children to plant new vegetables over the next year. The company is working with the National Farm to School Network, a group that links 10,000 American schools with local farms to bring healthy food into cafeterias, and to push nutrition education in classrooms and hands-on learning through school gardens. “Annie's created Root 4 Kids to inspire kids to eat more real food, while providing parents and teachers with resources to help spark conversations about why real food matters," the company says.

"Annie's Launches 'Root 4 Kids' Campaign Encouraging Kids Nationwide to Dig Real Food", News release, Annie's, September 27, 2010, © PRNewswire
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Company Features Fair Trade Products During National Fair Trade Month

September 27, 2010: 05:59 AM EST

World of Green says it hopes to expand awareness of the Fair Trade movement by promoting sustainable fair trade coffees, teas, chocolates, handmade accessories and apparel during National Fair Trade month in October. The Fair Trade movement promises that fair wages are paid to farmers and independent community co-operatives in disadvantaged countries. For example, with coffee the second most traded commodity globally after oil, Fair Trade policies allow coffee growers to invest in their farms and communities, protect the environment, and develop competitive business skills. Besides farm products, World of Green offers Fair Trade   jewelry, handbags, and apparel sourced from Peru, Kenya and Bali and sold by merchants Annie O Boutique, The Leakey Collection and Zen Deluxe.

"World of Green Urges Consumers to Buy Fair Trade in Celebration of National Fair Trade Month", PRNewswire, September 27, 2010, © PRNewswire
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Food Safety Is A Major Issue For Consumers, Food Industry Professionals

September 20, 2010: 09:48 PM EST

Recent news coverage of tainted beef, salmonella-infected eggs and contaminated Gulf shrimp are having an impact on consumer and food professional spending patterns, new U.S./Norwegian research finds. Web-based surveys of 400 consumers and 75 food companies, including manufacturers, distributors and retailers, found that safe and healthy food is the number one priority, though recycling, social justice, green practices, economic viability and animal welfare are also important, especially as indicators of sustainability. Domestic meat products are a serious concern among consumers along with products coming from international sources. The research also found that many food suppliers are putting certification audits in place to manage food safety risk through traceability tools. “Industry professionals place more emphasis on traceability, while consumers want to see the certification on product labels,” said one researcher.

"Savvy consumers put a high price on food safety", News release, Michigan State University, September 20, 2010, © Michigan State University
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M&A Activity May Heat Up As Demand For Organic Foods Soars In Canada

September 17, 2010: 07:57 PM EST

Thanks to a surge in demand in Canada, and the fact that the country imports three-fourths of its organic food, several organic producers may find themselves in the crosshairs of acquisition-minded food majors looking to diversify their product lines. SunOpta, SunRype and Industries Lassonde are among the potential quarry, according to analysts, with likely buyers being United Natural Foods and Whole Foods Market. SunOpta, with a market value of $380 million and a 10 percent growth rate, produces organic soy, wheat, grains and fruits for food giants General Mills, Kraft, and Kellogg. And fruit-based drinks maker Lassonde could fetch as much as $460 million from an elite buyer like Néstle or Kraft.

Arnika Thakur and Gowri Jayakumar, "Rising demand puts Canada's organics on M&A menu", Reuters, September 17, 2010, © Thomson Reuters
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Whole Foods Implements Sustainability Rating System For Wild-Caught Fish

September 14, 2010: 11:20 AM EST
Whole Foods Market has officially launched its in-store sustainable rating system for wild-caught seafood. In addition, the company said it will phase out all threatened (red-rated) species by Earth Day 2013. Green, yellow and red ratings are designed to make it easier for environmentally-conscious consumers to “make informed choices at the seafood case,” the company said. The green (“best choice”) rating means a fish species is relatively abundant and is caught using environmentally-friendly methods. The yellow (“good alternative”) rating indicates there is concern over the species’ status or catch methods. The red rating (“avoid”) means the species is being over fished or fishing methods are detrimental to other marine life. Whole Foods partnered with Monterey Bay Aquarium and Blue Ocean Institute to develop the rating program.
"Whole Foods Market® empowers shoppers to make sustainable seafood choices with color-coded rating system", Whole Foods, September 14, 2010, © Whole Foods
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Australia’s National Organic Week Begins October 1

September 13, 2010: 10:57 AM EST
Two organic associations are hosting and promoting National Organic Week (NOW) in Australia from October 1 – 10. According to researcher IBIS World, organic is one of the fastest growth industries in Australia. NOW, whose theme is “Be Organic: Taste the Difference, Feel the Difference, Make a Difference,” was created to publicize the benefits of organic products and farming production systems and to promote organic principles among the general population. Organic products encompass more than food in Australia: they include cosmetics, skin care, health care, baby products, textiles and fashion, beer, wine and champagne, furniture and building materials. Associated industries such as organic recycling and composting are also experiencing growth. Promoters of NOW are the Centre for Organic & Resource Enterprises and Biological Farmers of Australia.
Josette Dunn, "National Organic Week launch", AFN, September 13, 2010, © AFN
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Mexican Organic Farmer Proves His Organic Produce Is Profitable At Conventional Prices

September 13, 2010: 11:14 AM EST

Reshoot Production Company has reached a preliminary agreement with successful organic Mexican grower Juan Jose Urias to acquire 58 percent interest in his 425-acre organic farm for about $1 million. Urias has grown USDA-certified organic tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers for three years on more than 10 acres, and can prove his USDA-certified organic produce can be sold profitably for the same price as conventional produce. It is generally accepted that organic farming methods are more expensive than conventional methods, making organic produce costlier, and less desirable, in grocery stores. Though Urias has been selling for the full organic price, Reshoot says the produce could be sold profitably for the same price as non-organic produce. After a definitive agreement, Urias will help Reshoot develop organic farms that duplicate his success.

"Reshoot Production Company Signs Memorandum of Understanding With Mexican Grower to Purchase 58% Ownership & Announces Organic Fruits and Vegetables Can Be Produced at the Same Cost as Conventionally Grown Produce", Marketwire, September 13, 2010, © Marketwire
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College Students Invent A Cooling Shed System To Preserve Harvested Produce

September 9, 2010: 02:46 PM EST
Students at a U.S. agribusiness college have developed a way to make their own fruit and vegetable harvest remain fresher longer. The students built two 10-foot-by-10-foot air-conditioned walk-in packing sheds on the 450-acre farm property, providing a sustainable and cool way to preserve the harvest. University and state officials worked together to secure $34,300 in state agriculture enhancement money. The university contracted with an air conditioning firm to build the packing sheds and provide the geothermal method: digging a 6 1/2-inch hole 300 feet into the ground adjacent to the shop facility housing the packing sheds. The method brings a constant 55-degree temperature to the cooling units. “It’s 70 percent more efficient and doubled the lifespan of the cooling unit,” one of the students said.
Dr. Warren Gill, "Ag School Develops Cool, Sustainable Way to Keep Veggies Fresher", News release, Middle Tennessee State University, September 09, 2010, © MTSU
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Pepsi Pulls Troubled All-Natural Pepsi Raw From U.K. Market

September 6, 2010: 10:34 PM EST
PepsiCo is removing the struggling all-natural Pepsi Raw brand, the first new cola it has launched since 1993, from the U.K. market. Made from naturally sourced ingredients, Pepsi Raw never really caught on in grocery stores after its debut in 2008. The latest sales numbers from Nielsen peg sales at a little over $1 million (£704,000) for the 12 months ending June 26. Industry watchers wonder whether Pepsi will tinker with its much-publicized plan to make its foods and beverages healthier. Perhaps also under reconsideration is the promise to spend heavy ad dollars on natural and low- or no-sugar products like Pepsi Raw and Pepsi Max. Pepsi used a low-key approach to the launch of Pepsi Raw, relying on “building buzz” with social media and word-of-mouth marketing.
David Burrows, "Pepsi Raw removed from UK market", MarketingWeek, September 06, 2010, © Marketingweek.co.uk
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On Its 30th Birthday, Whole Foods Adds Health, Wellness Themes To Marketing Strategy

September 3, 2010: 10:10 PM EST
John Mackey, CEO of $8 billion Whole Foods, whose 300 stores are celebrating the company’s thirtieth anniversary, says the company is evolving toward health and wellness while it maintains its emphasis on organic and natural foods. The company is getting ready to launch three wellness-related programs at stores, including an animal welfare rating initiative that will debut in all stores early in 2011. Customers will be provided information on how meat animals are raised. This month, the company will take advantage of an informational partnership with the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Blue Ocean Institute to inform shoppers about seafood species sold in stores. The company is also launching Wellness Clubs in five prototype stores to teach consumers about the connection between healthy eating and disease prevention.
"Whole Foods CEO: Healthy food is affordable necessity", USA Today, September 03, 2010, © USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.
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Organic Strawberry Farms Have Better Soil Genetics, Yield Better Fruit

September 2, 2010: 01:36 PM EST
Organic strawberry farms analyzed in California, the home of 90 percent of U.S. strawberries, yielded more flavorful and nutritious berries without depleting or harming the soil, researchers have found. Soil scientists performed “side-by-side comparisons” of 13 organic and 13 conventional strawberry farms and their fruit for the comprehensive study, which examined 31 chemical and biological soil properties, as well as soil DNA. They also analyzed the taste, nutrition and quality of three strawberry varieties on the 26 commercial fields. The study found that organic strawberries had significantly higher antioxidant activity and concentrations of ascorbic acid and phenolic compounds; longer shelf life; and overall better flavor and appearance. DNA analysis found the organically managed soils had many more total and unique genes and greater genetic diversity.
John P. Reganold, Preston K. Andrews, et al., "Fruit and Soil Quality of Organic and Conventional Strawberry Agroecosystems", PLoS ONE, September 02, 2010, © Reganold et al.
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Are Food Companies Misleading Consumers By Including Foreign Ingredients in “British” Foods?

August 29, 2010: 02:43 AM EST
A News of the World report says U.K. food companies are labeling dishes as “British” even though they contain components from other countries. Ready meals, meats and dairy goods carrying the British label may be misleading consumers who want to support local meat producers. Among the offenders are major store brands and food products from companies like Wall's, Young's and Heinz, according to the report, which notes that the practice is legal because of a labeling law loophole: food products processed in the U.K. can be labeled “British-made” no matter where the ingredients come from. Several Tesco frozen meals, for example, are labeled British but include meat from Thailand. The practice is confusing consumers who buy British foods thinking “they are supporting a local farmer," a Mintel analyst noted.
Daniel Jones & Claire Kane, "Dishes being labelled British despite having foreign ingredients", News of the World, August 29, 2010, © News International Group
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Five Myths Impede Greater Acceptance Of The Organics Industry

August 13, 2010: 09:15 PM EST
Five key misconceptions about organic food are keeping the industry from becoming mainstream. For example, despite the findings of a recent study, eating organic food does not lead to obesity. Organic shoppers, in fact, tend to buy low-calorie produce. And organic labeling is not just a marketing gimmick. The USDA-approved labels signify a grueling process endured by producers, growers, etc., to make ensure that products are free from irradiation, genetically modified organisms, pesticides and other disqualifying substances. Lastly, organic foods are safe, even though they are free of hormones, chemical waxes and sanitizers; they are not necessarily more expensive; and they are not inferior to so-called “natural” foods.
Morgan Bast, "Top 5 misconceptions of organic", Natural Product Merchandiser, August 13, 2010, © Penton Media Inc
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Whole Foods Beefs Up Its All-Organic Non-Dairy Beverage Offerings

August 10, 2010: 05:06 AM EST
Whole Foods Market has expanded its all-organic, U.S. sourced non-dairy beverage line with the addition of almond milk varieties that include a private label refrigerated version and light soy milk. The company will continue to offer its 365 Organic Everyday Value Soy and Rice Milk in original, vanilla, chocolate and unsweetened varieties, packaged with new graphics. Soy and almond milk options will be sold in both refrigerated and shelf-stable varieties. The calcium- and vitamin-rich 365 Organic Everyday Value non-dairy beverage options contain no lactose, cholesterol, or gluten. They also contain artificial flavors, sweeteners, preservatives or colors, hydrogenated fats, high fructose corn syrup or genetically engineered ingredients.
"Whole Foods Market Showcases All Organic, USA-Sourced Non-Dairy Beverage Options", WholeFoods, August 10, 2010, © Whole Foods Market IP, L.P.
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Ecocert Launches Organic Certification Program In Indian State

August 7, 2010: 04:53 AM EST
Farmers in the east Indian state of Bihar are looking to take advantage of the global demand for organic commodities, which is growing 25% annually, but first they need to have their farming methods certified as organically grown. Ecocert, a French certification agency for organic, fair trade and good agricultural practices (GAP) standards, says it is working with Indian farmers to achieve certification. The agency has launched an affordable program for small agri-entrepreneurs that includes an explanation of the types and requirements of organic certification, the certification process and the available world markets for certified produce. Farmers in Bihar grow jute, litchi, cosmetic raw materials such as herbal and aromatic plants, and makhana.
Press Release, Ecocert India, "Organic certification-key to penetrate the top markets-U.N. Choudhry, Speaker, Bihar assembly", India PRWire, August 07, 2010, © India PRwire
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Large Minority Of N.Y. State Farmers Interested In Going Organic

August 6, 2010: 04:50 AM EST
Forty percent of conventional farmers in New York State who responded to a government survey indicated at least some interest in becoming involved in organic production. The survey was conducted by the state’s agricultural commissioner to determine the amount of interest in transitioning to organic farming, as well as the perceived barriers to transition and the materials or services farmers are looking for. Six percent said they were highly interested in organic production, 15 percent were moderately interested and 19 percent were slightly interested. The main barrier to organic farming noted by respondents was disease-related production losses. Those interested in organic farming said they could use directories of organic product buyers, production guidance, market development, consulting services and continuing university research.
Sarah Johnston, "Assessing Farmer Interest in Transition to Organic Production and Barriers to Expansion of Organic Production in New York State", New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, August 06, 2010, © NY Department of Agriculture & Markets
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Though A Small Segment Of Beauty, Baby Care Is Proving To Be A Growth Industry

August 3, 2010: 03:12 AM EST
Despite the economic downturn, the baby care corner of the beauty products market outstripped the $7 billion beauty industry as a whole with seven percent growth in 2009, according to researcher Euromonitor. Global sales were concentrated (41%) in the more affluent countries of North America and Western Europe. Natural and organic products will contribute strongly to category growth in mature markets “as parents continue to trade up to higher-priced ‘free from’ products.” Experiencing the most consistent growth last year was baby sun care, which spiked four percent in North America. Other categories that performed well included natural baby care starter kits and baby hair care and toiletries. Baby skin care products will probably increase the most in value – an expected 23% rise worth $434 million.
Carrie Lennard, Euromonitor International, "Big Potential in Tiny Consumers", GCI Magazine, August 03, 2010, © Allured Business Media
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Unilever Cooperates With Dubai Municipality On Product Testing and Safety

July 29, 2010: 04:26 AM EST

A new agreement between Dubai Municipality and Unilever involves closer cooperation on product safety and testing. The head of the Municipality delegation that visited Unilever’s Safety and Environmental Assurance Centre (SEAC) in England said the visitors were focusing on the impact of products on consumers and the environment, and the discussions extended to product labeling, storage, and misuse of products. The visit should also help the Municipality head off the spread incorrect information about the products. Unilever holds around 30% of the personal care market in the UAE and 45% of its skin care and cleansing sales. 

"Dubai Municipality, Unilever to have closer cooperation on product safety and testing standards", AME Info, July 29, 2010, © AME Info FZ LLC / Emap Limited
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Some Organic Food Producers In Shanghai Succeed By Adhering To International Standards

July 28, 2010: 07:25 AM EST

The organic food movement is beginning to catch on in China, though people are still uncertain whether products touted as organic are properly certified and labeled and of high quality. But some reputable local firms are working hard to meet international organic certification standards and are delivering organic choices to Shanghai shoppers, sometimes straight to the buyer’s door for free. BIOfarm, for example, offers many organic foods derived from its 120 annually rotating crops. The farm delivers weekly “Farmer’s Baskets” of fresh, high quality produce, including a “singles” basket of five to seven types of fruits and vegetables. Other Chinese organic food producers include Shanghai Organic Agriculture Co., Ltd., Fields, Organic Kitchen and My Local Store. Several of these have online stores.

Sarah Zheng, "Green talk: Organic Made Easy", Shanghai Talk Magazine, July 28, 2010, © Ismay Publications Ltd.
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Experts Debate Whether Organic Food Is Better For You

July 27, 2010: 07:17 AM EST
With sales around $14 billion and growth over 20% annually since 1990, organic is the fastest growing segment in the food industry. But while many consumers believe organic good delivers health benefits there are few conclusive studies showing this to be true. Some researchers believe organic and nonorganic foods are equivalent while some studies indicate organic foods show elevated nutritional content. Consumer must navigate confusing labeling categories – ‘100 Percent Organic’, ‘Organic’ and ‘Made With Organic Ingredients’ – and rules that allow products to be labeled ‘organic’ even if they contain up to 30% non-organic ingredients. To diminish the harmful potential of conventionally grown foods experts advise choosing thicker-skinned fruits and vegetables and washing them, as well as sanitizing hands, cutting boards and counters.
Constance Young and Marci A. Landsmann, "Does Organic Offer Nutritional Benefits? Experts discuss nutritional differences between conventional and organic.", Advance for Nurse Practitioners, July 27, 2010, © Merion Publications
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Coca-Cola’s R&D Machine Hopes To Keep Up With Fast-Changing Consumer Tastes

July 25, 2010: 10:33 AM EST
Determined to stay abreast of rapidly changing consumer preferences, Coca-Cola Co. has its R&D machine running at full tilt, not only developing new beverages with exotic flavors, textures and healthy ingredients, but also environmentally-friendly beverage containers using plant-derived plastics. Its Venturing and Emerging Brands (VEB) unit is focusing on six carefully-guarded product categories, any one of which could produce the next billion-dollar brand. The company is also exploring the use of natural sweeteners, colors and preservatives in beverages that will also contain functional ingredients such as omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. On the environmental front, its new recyclable bottles are partially made of a material derived from sugar cane. By 2020 the company hopes its bottles will be made 100 percent from plant-based material.
Martinne Geller, "Coca-Cola taps new drink textures, functions", Reuters, July 25, 2010, © Thomson Reuters
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Competitive Pricing Fuels Growing Interest In Organic Specialty Salads

July 21, 2010: 09:46 AM EST
Though it’s a major struggle for California’s organic farmers to keep costs reined in, competitive prices are helping to build consumer demand, and thus increased shelf space, for organic specialty salad components like mixed baby greens and baby spinach. Several of the state’s organic farms report steady and even increasing sales at the retail level and in the foodservice space. That follows the national trend reported by Nielsen Co, which reports that organic products have grabbed a 46 percent share of specialty salad sales. “We think it’s because we’ve been able to get organic salads on shelf more or less within about 25% of the price of conventional,” a spokesman for one large organic producer says.
Don Schrack, "Even supply, aggressive pricing help organic sales remain steady", The Packer, July 21, 2010, © Vance Publishing Corp.
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Food Industry Must Address “Higher-Level” Concerns Of Consumers

July 20, 2010: 08:53 PM EST
Food industry experts speaking at the recent IFT annual meeting acknowledged the bad press food processing has gotten in recent years. But while they stressed that obesity is not the only problem facing the world, they also warned that taking a defensive posture against critics is a mistake. Instead of saying processed foods aren’t harmful, the food industry needs to address the “higher-level” concerns of consumers, especially longevity/wellness and weight/health. Tomorrow’s food system, in addition to being “science- and technology-based,” one expert said, has to be focused on consumer needs and desires and must “assure the health and wellness of consumers, preserve the environment and natural resources, and be sustainable.”
Mary Ellen Kuhn, "Changing the Conversation About Processed Foods", IFT Live, July 20, 2010, © IFT
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EC Expects Robust Growth In Organic Food Imports

July 19, 2010: 08:09 AM EST
Organic food product imports into European Union countries will increase significantly as demand exceeds domestic supply, according to a report from the EC’s Directorate-General for Agriculture And Rural Development. The increased demand in wealthier western EU countries may also fuel a rise in intra-EU trade because organic production has grown much faster than demand in the Central and Eastern European states. More than 80 percent of retail spending on organic food products took place in Germany, Great Britain, France and Italy. The robust growth was driven by the entry of all major retailers into the market. Retail spending on organic food averaged $18.6 billion a year in 2006 and 2007, the report said.
EC, Directorate-General for Agriculture And Rural Development, "An analysis of the EU organic sector", Press Release, EurActiv, July 19, 2010, © European Commission
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Manufacturers Respond To Consumer Demands For Simple, Sustainable Foods

July 19, 2010: 09:49 AM EST
Simplicity tops the list of hottest trends in the food industry, followed closely by sustainability, cooking at home, inherent nutrition, and functionality, according to Innova Market Insights. Food manufacturers are responding to the call for foods that are “simple,” “pure” and “homestyle” with a variety of products and claims. Lay’s Classic Potato Chips promises that it contains only “three simple ingredients” while Pillsbury says its Simply…Cookies are baked with “simple, whole ingredients.” Top products marketed as sustainable include chocolate, tea, juices, fish and seafood, and breakfast cereals. Rounding out the top ten trends are foods that promise: enhanced immunity or energy boosts, “free from” ingredients like gluten, extreme flavors, and are authentically regional.
Mary Ellen Kuhn, "Consumers Seek Simplicity, Innova Reports", Press release, IFT Live, July 19, 2010, © Innova Market Insights, IFT
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