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Kaleidoscope II: Changing Patterns And The Organic Twinkie

Recently, I attended my 30th Expo West, the natural and organic products expo in Anaheim, California. Interestingly, the conference challenged me to put to use the principals of the Kaleidoscope blog I published last week in my A-Z of Business series. I was able to recognize and enjoy the changing patterns and different perspectives of an industry very dear to me.

I am sure anyone reading this has experienced the same types of change and also had to embrace it and appreciate it for what it is. To put this in context, I am going to travel down memory lane a bit (and vent a little) then come back with a blended perspective and a plan of action.

At Expo West, I perceived what we in the organic industry have long feared and refereed to as the organic Twinkie—a metaphor for organic food that is not healthy. We’ve always wondered what we would do when the organic Twinkie finally showed up. Well, this year it did show up and brought with it everything from organic Pringles-type chips to anything you can imagine processed with an organic ingredient.

From the kaleidoscope perspective you could think, isn’t that great because its supporting organic wheat, corn or potatoes, and that the acreage used to grow these things is not being treated with pesticides or herbicides. Well, yep, that’s an extremely important environmental impact positive. But as I turned the kaleidoscope I thought about a mother who might pay a premium for that organic product thinking it is healthier for her child. But is it?

Now, a very positive view of this development is that it took us 30 years to get organics positioned as a healthy alternative, but that was an agricultural phenomena with an indirect consumer health benefit. So if you turn the kaleidoscope one more time and reexamine the industry, is this a platform to build on or has the ship already sailed?

In other words, if we wanted to build on a “beyond organic” platform, what could it be? Could it be carbon farming or agriculture practices that sequester carbon and put it back into the soil where it belongs? Or do we do use agriculture practices that regenerate the soil and then measure the impact by tons of soil the farm system reinvigorates or do we develop health criteria for food and require all products that are organic, carbon-friendly or regenerative to meet these requirements to be labeled as organic.

Well, let’s shake the kaleidoscope again and realize that the last thing we need is another labeling requirement or something else for us to think about. So, what if we all just learned the basics of nutrition and healthy food so consumers wouldn’t buy the non-healthy varieties, then all of the food companies would move toward supplying those products.

So going full circle, let the organic industry create the Twinkie and let’s hope consumers (and common sense) will prevail and realize that just because its labeled organic doesn’t mean it is better for you. I am positive this will happen, so here’s to continuing to turn the kaleidoscope.

AZ

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