This week's dose of organic headlines, updates, resources and recipes courtesy of dsnodgrass...
I lived in New York City for many years. One of the interesting dynamics on the island of Manhattan is the number of people who eat lunch while they're walking. For many, it's a matter of necessity, hence the abundance of street-cart vendors.
This may be an uphill slog, but I'm encouraged to see that the people behind GustOrganics restaurant and bar are taking it to the street. Organic Carts NYC, they've got one up and running with a promise that more are on the way. If you're lucky enough to find yourself in NYC, you'll find their cart at the NorthWest corner of 53rd Street and Park Avenue. The menu looks great and their green bona fides appear solid.
Jill was recently in Bolivia and has been posting a truly fascinating series. There's a lot to digest, and it's highly recommended.
London's Organic Monitor offers a global analysis of the business of organics.
Some argue that large food retailers are taking advantage of the ‘organic’ brand without making any of the associated investment. Indeed, the industry has been built by certification agencies and pioneering brands; the very same logos and brands that are slowly disappearing in supermarkets and mainstream retailers.
Sluggish market growth rates and rising consumer price sensitivity have popularised retailer private labels. Private labels for organic foods are most successful in Germany where they have been introduced by discounters, drugstores, supermarkets as well as organic food shops. In most product categories, private label products are outselling branded products of organic foods.
With consumers preferring value organic products, some manufacturer brands are becoming marginalised and are having to re-focus on specialist retailers. Most brands were built in this channel; they crossed over into mainstream retailers as the market gained momentum. However, the rise of private labels are making them target organic food shops and health food retailers once again.
Increasingly crowded retail space is making many brands re-invent themselves. Being organic is no longer good enough as organic foods have become 'commoditised' in the marketplace. Some, such as Green & Black’s have positioned themselves as ethical brands. In the US, Organic Valley has positioning itself as a sustainable brand that supports family farms. It has also adopted a brand extension strategy, expanding from organic dairy to several product categories. Its success has made the co-operative the largest organic food enterprise in North America, reporting USD 520 million sales in 2009.
Pioneering brands are re-inventing themselves to widen consumer appeal. However, retailer private labels are also evolving with some transcending traditional boundaries. The O Organics private label has expanded from Safeway retailers into foodservice outlets in the US. It has also developed an international presence, marketed by numerous food retailers in Latin America, Asia and Africa.
Soldiers returning from overseas to the economic stalemate at home are finding solace and jobs on farms across the country, thanks to the nonprofit Farmer-Veteran Coalition (FVC).
FVC executive director and organic farmer Michael O'Gorman says there is an agricultural niche that returning veterans seem to be uniquely able to fill. On the one hand, there is a shortage of young farmers in rural America; on the other hand, the support system and demand for locally grown and organic food are burgeoning. "The incredible sense of hard work, self-sacrifice, and service developed in the military is perfectly suited and immediately transferable to farming. And there have never been so many opportunities for new farmers," O'Gorman says.
There is demand among veterans, too. More than 130 veterans and active-duty service members have contacted the coalition, and about 30 are already on farms or in the process of starting their own farms. Matt Mccue, an Iraq war veteran and the co-owner of Shooting Star CSA in Fairfield, California, began collaborating with the coalition when he returned from doing agricultural Peace Corps work in West Africa. He says it was the thought of working with the nuts and bolts of society that inspired him to farm.
"All societies work from the soil, essentially. When the soil is degraded, that is when civilizations collapse," says Mccue. "The farmer-soldiers I've met have a lot of unique tools and skill sets. People join the military because they think outside the box. There is a huge potential for former military personnel to find solutions to some of the big-picture problems and food-security issues facing society."