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    Organics’ Evolutionary Eruption

    By Meg Major, EnsembleIQ

    "Organic Shmorganic.”

    So blared the headline of a Jan. 29 story on Slate.com by Melinda Wenner Moyer, who shared a controversial view that organic produce is wildly overrated, in a near 3,000-word story that deconstructed the debate about whether it’s worth buying organic produce for children because of fears that pesticides on conventional produce are harmful. (Moyer also pledged to tackle organic dairy products, meats and eggs in future columns).

    “Does giving my son organic food really make a difference to his health, considering that he’s been known to lick the bottom of his shoes?” Moyer candidly asked early on in her commentary advocating that conventional fruits and vegetables are perfectly healthy – specifically for kids – which she supported with considerable scientific research.

    Needless to say, the article by the Cold Spring, N.Y.-based science writer and Slate.com’s "DoubleX" parenting advice columnist triggered an uproar within the organic community, including the Brattleboro, Vt.-based Organic Trade Association, which blasted the article for missing “some important points about the science behind the benefits of eating organic,” including “the many studies showing that these synthetic chemical cocktails can act synergistically to amplify health hazards. It also neglects to point out that while there are natural pest management materials that can be used by organic growers, these materials are used in combination with integrated management techniques that obviate the need for toxic controls.”

    Having generated nearly 1,000 comments on Slate.com and countless more on social networks, Moyer’s advice to parents mirrors what the produce industry has long maintained: Instead of parents fruitlessly obsessing – as she admits she used to do – about whether an apple has trace synthetic pesticides, she argues that parents should focus more on making sure their kids are eating fresh fruits and vegetables.

    While it’s hardly surprising that Moyer’s polarizing position to endorse conventionally grown produce would spark rampant controversy, its central premise underscores an important reality: Organics are an entrenched part of the national discourse, and supermarkets are squarely on the hot seat when it comes to helping shoppers feel good about both sides of the coin in the bid to elevate organics alongside their conventionally grown and produced counterparts.

    We take a closer look at the evolutionary changes with organics in PG's upcoming March print issue, including in produce, merchandising techniques, supply and demand, and the latest observations on the accelerated expansion of store-brand organic product development across departments, from execs at Daymon Worldwide. Our March organics feature also includes intriguing related insights from Laurie Demeritt, CEO of  The Hartman Group, in Bellevue, Wash., who discusses organics’ decided migration from niche to mainstream, with an estimated 59 percent of shoppers now buying organic food at conventional grocery stores.

    Despite the steady inroads, Demeritt affirms that organics continues to offer supermarkets enormous opportunities to become more relevant to consumers as “curators of products and docents of food and beverage information,” along with an excellent opportunity to build trust with customers.

    And in the present era, few things are more crucial for grocers to aspire for than relevancy and trust.

    By Meg Major, EnsembleIQ
    • About Meg Major Veteran supermarket industry journalist Meg Major brings a wealth of experience to her role as Chief Content Editor of Progressive Grocer. In addition to her editorial duties, Major also spearheads the retail food industry’s premier women’s leadership recognition platform, Top Women in Grocery. Follow her on Twitter at @Meg_Major, connect with her on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/megmajor, or email her at [email protected]

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