Monday, May 20, 2019

The Organic Food Industry: Good for the Environment, Bad for Consumers?

Over the past two decades, the organic food industry has gone from a niche sector to market dominance. What was once available in limited options and at sky-high prices can now be found in mainstream grocery stores around the world. The sector is growing, and is expected to continue its growth trend well into the coming years. With this explosive growth comes significant challenges, particularly in consumer confidence that organic foods are adhering to the high standards that kicked off the organic foods movement.

Organic Foods are Big Business

Organic farming practices – those that shun the use of artificial fertilizers, growth hormones, and pesticides – began in the early 1960s. It was an idealistic movement, spurred by concern for healthy lifestyles and environmental protection. For the next 30 years, organic farmers operated on a relatively small scale, providing products to local grocery stores and supplying boutique food products manufacturers. In the 1990s, consumer interest in organic foods swelled. Today, organic foods are big business; in 2017, the organic food industry brought in almost $50 billion in sales. What began as an environmental movement is now as big as conventional agribusiness practices.

Consumer Assurance

Commercial-scale organic farms dot the landscape, and as they adopt agribusiness practices, many consumers have lost confidence in the safety and quality of these products. While there are minimum standards, particularly those established when the U.S. Congress enacted the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, many large organic food producers adhere to the very minimums required by law. This is a dramatic departure from the organic food movement’s origins. Today, numerous industry organizations are promoting higher standards for organic food production in the hopes of regaining lost consumer confidence.

An organization called the Cornucopia Institute is spearheading these efforts, ranking domestic organic certifying groups and producers based on their adherence to established standards. Some of the certifiers are interpreting regulations that favor larger corporate farming operations, leading to questions about the business relationships between certifiers and the businesses they are supposed to be helping to regulate. Unethical behavior is rampant among the largest growers and producers, further eroding consumer confidence. Cornucopia’s work aims to provide transparency to consumers, letting them know their organic food products are grown and produced to exacting standards that go beyond the minimums imposed by law.

Pricing: the Achilles Heel of Organic Foods

In the early days of organic foods availability on grocery shelves, consumers were often shocked by the high prices. As the industry grew and conventional growers began to purchase smaller farming operations, those prices stabilized somewhat but still command a premium over conventionally-produced foods. Larger scale production should mean slashing costs to consumers, but this simply isn’t happening. Growers often believe that consumers are already comfortable with the premium costs associated with organics and that there is no real incentive to lower prices. Although sales are in the billions, pricing will continue to impose challenges on the organic foods industry – potentially keeping many consumers from adopting these environmentally-friendly foods into their buying habits. Industry analysts suggest an overhaul of the industry, raising standards beyond minimums and taking a hard look at pricing structures to help grow the business even more in the coming years.


Thursday, April 11, 2019

Public Distrust in the Food Industry: Overcoming Challenges

The global food industry has experienced a severe erosion in public trust over the past decade. Highly-publicized accounts of contamination, the fear of genetically-modified ingredients, and failures on the federal level to inspect food products for safety have led to suspicion and outright distrust among the world’s food-buying public. Add to that the consumer interest in natural and sustainable food production practices and one has a recipe for dramatic upheavals within the food industry. Thankfully, the food industry is responding to consumer distrust, implementing changes in the way food products are sourced, made, and distributed to regain consumer confidence.

Why the Distrust Among Consumers?

In recent years, the food-buying public has become increasingly aware of the role foods play in health. In fact, most industry analysts and food safety advocates believe that foods are far more important for health than any pharmaceutical product. The foods we eat form the foundation of our ability to live our lives, providing nutrition, energy, and immune support. Despite this knowledge – a more sophisticated and aware buying public – trust in the food industry has declined dramatically. While there are many factors that influence public trust (or distrust), some of the leading causes have been:
  • The introduction of genetically-modified ingredients into food products.
  • Wasteful or environmentally-damaging farming practices.
  • Contamination of food supplies from heavy metals, pesticides, and bacteria.
  • Misleading packaging and labeling.

Reduction in food safety inspections, especially with the partial government shutdown in the U.S. leading inspectors from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to curtail food production inspections. 

What is the Food Industry Doing to Regain Public Trust?

There are many influences in the food production industry, both positive and negative. Public trust in this industry is at an all-time low, and the industry is responding by making significant changes in the way foods are handled from farm to table. 
One of the leading initiatives is the food industry partnering with scientists to unlock safer, more environmentally-sustainable agricultural practices. Starting with the building blocks of food production, scientists have developed new strategies that protect nutritional value of food ingredients right at the beginning of the production cycle. Smart food industry players are leveraging these scientific discoveries, ensuring that their products meet or exceed established food safety standards from the very start.
The development of more nutritious foods – foods that support healthy lifestyles and improve immunity from diseases – have risen to the forefront of food industry concerns. Again, science is a critical partner in this aspect of the industry. By developing and producing foods that are healthier, the industry is poised to wipe out malnutrition on a global scale. This has the added effect of improving public trust in the industry, believing that consumer best interests are being recognized.
Finally, consumer packaging and labeling is targeted for improvement. The food industry and its regulatory agencies have recognized that the information on food packages is critical for consumer understanding. Establishing standards in what can and cannot be included in packaging has not only increased public trust, but has also given consumers the details they need to make informed purchasing decisions.
There is much work to be done to ensure public trust of the world’s food production companies. With science, consumer awareness, and a commitment by industry players to improve production parameters, the public can rest assured that food products are safe and nutritious. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Organic Foods: Are They Better For You?

Although the concept of organic foods goes back to just before World War II, it is only in recent years that such foods have arrived front and center in consumer preferences. Organic foods are those produced without artificial fertilizers or harmful pesticides, and in the past 20 years, the market share of these foods has exploded. Consumers are more tuned in than ever before, concerned with the additives in their foods and what they put into their bodies according to nudie. In fact, organic foods have been proclaimed as “miracle foods” by many. Still, the rise of organic foods in the market has led to the question of “Can eating organic foods actually benefit overall health?” In preliminary studies, the answer may be “yes”.

Organic Foods: The Origins

Walter James, 4th Baron Northbourne, was an English agricultural scientist and author who developed the concept of a sustainable farming system that put ecological balance at the center of the equation. In his 1940 book Look to the Land, he used the term “organic farming” for the first time to represent his balanced farming system. In the late 1940s, publishing empire Rodale Press brought the term to full public awareness, using it to indicate foods that were grown and produced without harmful chemicals or additives and adding it to the company’s magazine entitled Organic Farming and Gardening.

Today, organic foods are regulated by numerous local, state, federal, and international organizations, each requiring rigorous farming and production practices. To qualify for labeling foods as organic, growers must first obtain certification from these organizations, then ensure that the foods are grown without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers.

Can Organic Foods Promote Healthy Lifestyles?

Science has begun to unravel the potential of organically-grown foods in promoting health in humans. While there have been many wild claims as to the healing power and safety of organic foods, limited scientific evidence shows that there may indeed be health benefits, especially when compared to traditionally-produced foods and beverages.

A number of smaller studies have been conducted on organically-produced foods over the past two decades. In most of the studies, organic foods have been shown to have lower concentrations of dangerous residues like pesticides and heavy metals than in foods produced using typical commercial farming practices. Reducing the ingestion of potentially dangerous chemicals can only be a good thing for the human body, even though much of the scientific evidence supporting this statement thus far is anecdotal in nature.

A five-year study conducted by researchers in France looked at a sizeable population of adults –70,000 participants, many of them women. In the study, researchers looked at eating habits of the group and discovered that those who consumed organic foods on a regular basis had a 25% lower rate of cancers than in people who did not eat organic foods. High organic foods consumers saw substantial drops in certain types of cancers, including lymphoma and postmenopausal breast cancer. The researchers were quick to point out that the study does not prove diets rich in organic foods were solely responsible for decreased cancer rates. Rather, the findings provide strong evidence that such a diet could potentially provide a significant cancer risk reduction.

In another study, published in 2011, it was shown that organic foods had higher levels of certain micronutrients than conventionally grown and produced foods. These micronutrients may also contribute to improved health, particularly in the circulatory and cognitive systems of the human body. More study is clearly needed, but for now it is relatively safe to say that organic foods may hold the keys to healthier, more active lives.


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Andrew Binetter On Winning the 2008 Beverage Innovation Awards

The years I have spent with Nudie will always be close to my heart. As I look back on my lengthy career, with a string of achievements that I would consider fairly impressiveit is my role as cofounder and CEO of Nudie Foods that stands as one of the most significant highlights. In fact to this day, I have yet to get used to not seeing “CEO-Nudie Foods Australia” when I read the name “Andrew Binetter”!

Nudie Foods definitely left a mark on my consciousness, and I am proud to say that it made quit a dent on the Australian fruit juices market as well! One of the accomplishments that we at Nudie are most proud of was the winning of the first prize at the Beverage Innovation Awards held in Moscow in 2008. You could watch a video of me and Nudie marketing manager Sally Draycott being interviewed by Zenith International Publishing managing editor Bill Bruce below.
Winning the first prize at such a prestigious event was a significant milestone in Nudie’s history to say the least. Those who have been following Nudie’s growth over the years will recall that we previously won the second prize in the 2007 Beverage Innovation Awards. Coming in second was already an impressive accomplishment for us considering the fierce competition among some of the giants in the global beverages industry, so you could imagine just how thrilled we were to land the top spot.

The accomplishment was especially significant considering the numerous obstacles and challenges that we at Nudie Foods have had to overcome over the years. When we first started out in 2002, we faced stiff competition from a number of internationally prominent brands that practically dominated the Australian consumer foods market. There were also a number of local brands who had managed to secure a solid foothold in the beverages industry. Nevertheless, we knew we had a good concept and a solid range of products, and it wasn’t long before local shops and consumers began turning to us in droves. Within 12 months of launching Nudie, we had managed to set up offices and distribution centers in Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane, and a factory in Sydney.

photo of Andrew Binetter at the Beverage Awards
Binetter's comprehensive interview was documented within the aforementioned video.
Going back to the Moscow Beverage Innovation Awards, we were understandably grateful to participate in such a prestigious eventand even more thrilled to win. As ZIP managing editor Bill Bruce mentioned, we had managed to set ourselves apart in the Australian beverages market with our unusual marketing campaign that targeted consumers and industry players in a single effective campaign. am inclined to agree with Nudie marketing manager Sally Draycott when she said that much of the inspiration for our success stems from the efforts of our own marketing team, which I'm proud to say is the most creative and wacky team of professionals that I have ever had the pleasure of working with.

Nudie Foods Australia has since been sold to Monde Nissan, ending a remarkable 12 and-a-half year run. As I embark on the next stage of my professional career, I will continue to cherish the years I spent with the firm.

Monday, August 1, 2016

A Noteworthy Brand: Nudie Juices, Inc.

As the former CEO of the brand Nudie Juices, Andrew Binetter has emerged as an expert within the consumer food and beverage industries. His countless public recognition awards have piled up over years along with his unique experience which he has attained through several executive positions. Equipped with an impressive collegiate background, he has earned his place among the elite business consultants within the Australian market. Visit his website to learn more about him and come in contact. He'd love it.