The Big Business of Organic Foods

Organic BrandsWho owns your favorite organic food label? Think most organic products and companies are independent- think again. Odwalla = Coca-Cola; Green and Blacks Chocolate = Cadbury; Cascadian Farms = General Mills. The list goes on and on. In fact, if you see it at a chain grocery store, your favorite organic or natural foods product is probably owned by a big corporation. See the graphic below for your favorite organic brand and their parent company.

It is the natural progression of business. In 2005, US organics accounted for 2.6% of the food market, growing at a rate of 17-20% a year resulting in a $52 billion industry in 2008.

The plus side

  • Organic food is easy to find, is plentiful and the costs are reasonable.
  • The food is predictable in quality, flavor and taste. Often smaller producers have a smaller production line and work in small batches with less strict ingredient or quality controls. While this can add to the uniqueness, it occasionally can produce unexpected results.
  • It can expand the organic market, adding and converting farmers and updating practices to the mainstream.

The minus side

  • It is difficult for small labels to compete, or expand beyond their local distribution network.
  • Often you will find less variety and more processing as these growing newly-corporate brands age.
  • The companies may begin to change their values, altering and dropping expensive or non-growth-related practices.

organic companies

What you can do

    If this news is troubling to you, try shopping at smaller local stores and farmers markets. These are the best ways to find local organic producers and products. Be proactive- keep up on the practices of your favorite organic brands to ensure they don’t change once acquired by larger corporations. Many organic companies retain their management, values and practices and are managed as a ‘hands off’ brand. Since organic practices can vary from company to company (within the standards), it is always a good idea to know the practices of your favorite brands.

Infographic by Philip H Howard of Michigan State University

Comments 4

  1. Pingback: Go Green Seattle 2010 | The Chic Ecologist

  2. That is correct it’s not that hard to find organic food resources. especially in the tropical countries you’ll find a lot of organic food. I’ve also noticed that cold drinks and food supplements is made of organic food. The industry for this kinda business is very progressive.

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  3. As soon as a major multi-national Corporation is involved in any formerly organic company everything they do is suspect in my mind. That they jumped on the organic profit bandwagon does NOT mean they had a change of ethical heart.

    Now would be a great time for small local grocery chains to get serious about selling locally produced everything from sources they know. I’ll take my chances with mom-and-pop sort-of organic (non-certified but using those concepts) over corporate anything any day.

    I am hopeful that an ever-growing percentage of people are realizing who can be trusted and especially who can not.

  4. Hello, my name is Alyssa and I am in seventh grade at Herbert Hoover Middle School. Thank you for taking the time to read this. I understand that you have a busy schedule and I really appreciate your time. I am part of a project in my English class where me and my classmates are to pick an environmental issue and do many tasks to help show why this should be changed. My group has chosen the issue of not as many people are eating organic as there should be. We have decided to reach out to some organic companies to ask a few questions. On average, how many people do you think use Organic food? What are some of the benefits? And, why do you think organic is the better choice? Please get back to me as soon as you can. Our task is due soon.
    Thank you,

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