By Robert Vosburgh
Editor, SN Whole Health
The copy of SN you’re reading at this moment arrived with the latest edition of SN Whole Health, our five-times-a-year health and wellness supplement. As the editor, I’m happy to say there’s no shortage of topics or controversies to write about. Of course, by that I mean that these are issues retailers and suppliers should be concerned with, since much of it is aimed directly at consumers.
In fact, 2007 marks the fifth anniversary of the National Organic Program. It was October 2002 when the industry first was allowed to pursue organic certification for its products. Anticipating a tremendous consumer response, large companies were already — quietly — in place, having acquired smaller organic manufacturers. Retailers began making room in their stores for whole health departments, or, at the very least, adding signage in the conventional aisles to highlight better-for-you choices.
While the novelty of seeing that little green seal from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on packaging has worn off, category growth continues to be strong. In this edition of SN Whole Health, you’ll find the cover story on the organic program’s fifth anniversary. It’s an ideal time to look at how pervasive the organic ideal has become, both in the minds of consumers and on product packaging that features red barns and smiling cows.
How real is organic today, particularly when it’s produced by big manufacturers and sold in conventional chain supermarkets? It’s a question that has become increasingly important to answer. The mainstream food industry is answering in one way, while core followers and small-scale advocates go after any person or company they suspect of cheating, whether it’s skirting around the established organic standards or ethical breaches involving ingredient sourcing. Just last week, The Cornucopia Institute — one of the most vocal critics of the way whole health is being mainstreamed — filed a lawsuit against no less an entity than the U.S. Department of Agriculture, alleging the agency has been derelict in enforcing the NOP.
That’s just the cover story. Elsewhere in the issue is a look at how the next Farm Bill might help companies develop additional sources of renewable energy; the surprising new products coming out of the coconut (gluten-free flour?); and a profile of a natural foods operator in Florida who manages to find new contact points between staff and customers, amid a decorative theme that gives Jungle Jim’s a run for its money.
There’s a cumulative effect to reading SN Whole Health. It’s not easy to walk away from reading it without realizing how interconnected this whole business is. And it’s probably one of the most interesting categories any retailer has had the chance to work with.
Indeed, health and wellness is more than a business; it extends beyond simple products. The categories that make up whole health not only refer to food, but also to hybrid cars, bag recycling, “green” roof systems and public outreach. It’s a diverse, exceptionally vibrant genre that offers retailers all sorts of opportunities to connect with customers.