Even just a few years ago, finding organic foods seemed to be limited to speciality food stores. However, as more people are becoming more aware of the connection between our diets and disease, interest (and buying power) has shifted to more natural and organic foods. This has been a wake up call to many companies who are having to change or get left behind.
Annual revenues for natural and organic foods have nearly tripled since 2001, and are expected to exceed $85 billion dollars by 2019. In fact, 51% of families are buying more organic products than a year ago. It’s no small thing to say that in the last few years, sales of natural and organic foods have become big business. As a result, big businesses want in on the action.
Did you know that 80 percent of organic brands are now reportedly owned by mega corporations? A few of the more popular brands that have been sold include:
- Clorox owns Burt’s Bees
- General Mills owns Cascadian Farms, Muir Glenn, Immaculate Baking and Annie’s
- Kellogg’s owns Kashi and Gardenburger
Food manufacturing companies are not the only ones trying to cash in. While not organic, restaurants like Panera and Chipotle are among the few making the big change. Panera stated that it will remove their 150 artificial preservatives, sweeteners, colors and flavors from their products by the end of 2016. Chipotle, meanwhile, has committed to being 100% GMO free. According to their website:
“Chipotle is on a never-ending journey to source the highest quality ingredients we can find. Over the years, as we have learned more about GMOs, we’ve decided that using them in our food doesn’t align with that vision. Chipotle was the first national restaurant company to disclose the GMO ingredients in our food, and now we are the first to cook only with non-GMO ingredients.”
If you live in Rohnert Park, California, you’ve got another option for organic food. Amy’s Kitchen, a popular frozen food brand, has opened an organic drive through restaurant. The menu includes items such as french fries made from fresh, organic potatoes as well as shakes, chili and burritos.
This trend isn’t just for food related companies either. Big companies like Coca-Cola are also jumping on board. Coca-Cola Co. has decided to invest $90 million for a nearly 30 percent stake in Suja Juice, LLC. Suja Juice beverages include non-GMO ingredients and are created using high pressure instead of heat pasteurization to kill bacteria. This move increases their product diversity into natural beverages that already includes the following brands owned by the company:
- Honest Tea
- Honest Kids
- Zico Coconut Water
- Peace Tea
- Vitamin Water
- Simply Orange
While any movement toward healthier, chemical free foods is a change in the right direction, not everyone supports the idea of big companies being in control of natural and organic brands. One huge red flag in support of this belief is the fact that the USDA does not include organic consumers or farmers on the board that determines the definition of “organic.” This lack of oversight could allow the USDA standards to slip inexorably towards profit rather than guaranteeing clean, nutritious foods.
To really ensure what you’re getting is the best quality, try to purchase as much of your food from local sources as possible. Farmers markets are a great way to get to know your local food producers and support your local economy.
In short, to be sure it’s what you want to be eating – buy local, buy organic and support your local organic farmers!