If consumers won't go to natural and organic foods, manufacturers and retailers will come to them. That's the idea behind a number of springtime initiatives promoting sampling and trial purchases of select products.
One such event, the Organic and Natural Experience, began its second year April 8 at the Atlanta Dogwood Festival. From there, it will travel around the country for the rest of the year, wrapping up at the Seattle Marathon and Fitness Expo Nov. 26.
More than 20 organic food companies have donated product and by the final city, ONE tour creator Michael Martin expects that 1 million food samples will be given away, including Santa Cruz Organic applesauce and Nature's Path cereal. Last year, Martin recruited seven companies for the inaugural 11-city tour.
The roadshow is aimed primarily at occasional users of organic products, who may have purchased certain items in the past, but have yet to extend their buying power to additional categories. Martin said the strength of the tour lies in a format that appeals directly to the organic-minded consumer, establishing a relationship through sampling and interaction with the company.
"What this says is that the critical path for growing the natural and organic industry is to allow these companies to be able to connect with people face to face," Martin said.
This year, Annie's Homegrown, Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, Clif Bar, Earthbound Farm, Fantastic Foods, Ian's Natural Foods, R.W. Knudsen, Luna, MaraNatha, Nature's Path, Odwalla, Organic Valley, Pacific Natural Foods, Santa Cruz Organic, Seeds of Change, Seventh Generation and Tea's Tea are among the companies participating in the tour. Each company was asked to choose six events where it would display its goods in the 10-by-40-foot traveling booth. There, coupons and literature about organic products are distributed along with samples.
"The goal is to increase awareness and sales of organic and natural products," Martin said. "The message we are really trying to communicate is for people to understand the impact organic and natural products can have."
Martin and his company, Music Matters, are also part of a countrywide campaign that began in late March. Go Organic! was similarly conceived to increase mainstream consumer organic awareness around Earth Day, April 22. The event is collaboration of the Earth Day Network, Organic Trade Association and 17 retail chains operating more than 2,500 stores, including Kroger, Publix, Giant Eagle and Food Lion.
"We wanted to tie this in with Earth Day because the environmental effects are well-known and we want people to understand those as well," said Holly Givens, OTA's communications director.
Go Organic! differs from the ONE campaign in that it is designed to reach not only organic consumers, but everyone who shops at mainstream supermarkets.