When I attended the Deepak Chopra event at ABC Home on Friday night, I had an opportunity to ask a question that has been stirring in my mind ever since Expo West – Why isn’t there a national advertising/branding campaign for organic?
From the numbers I saw at Expo West, the Florida orange juice industry ($1.3b) spends $16m on advertising, the beef industry ($30b) spends $42m on advertising, and the milk industry ($27b) spends $10m on advertising.
Yet, the organic food industry ($25b) spends practically nothing. This makes no sense whatsoever.
Well, the answer I received from Gary Hirshberg, the CEO of Stonyfield, was very welcome news. He said that 65 CEOs of the top organic food companies met recently and that we’ll be “seeing something very soon.” It appears to be weeks away.
What precipitated the urgent action was the USDAs decision to deregulate GE-alfalfa, a move that would kill the organic dairy and meat industries. This was the wake-up call.
The CEOs realized that if they don’t do something now, their businesses and livelihoods will be in serious jeopardy.
What a National Advertising Campaign Could Achieve
A national branding/advertising campaign for organic is critical, and its objectives should be the following.
– Go After Natural, Educate Consumers Right now, consumers are being fooled into thinking that the word “natural” means something. While it is supposed to mean minimally processed and nothing artificial, natural really stands for nothing.
There are no national standards for natural, there are no third-party certification agencies for natural, GMOs are allowed in natural, pesticides are allowed in natural, and the USDA does no enforcement with natural.
Organic has government standards, enforcement and third-party certification agencies. If a company fraudulently labels something as organic and they get caught, they are going to jail.
Consumers need to know that the healthy choice is organic, not natural.
– Help Eliminate GMOs As awareness for organic increases, people will start to become more aware of the dangers of genetically-modified food. And the more educated they become, the demand for GM-food only decreases.
The other consequence of this is that more people will become involved in the organic food movement and will start to protest all of the pro-GMO food policy that is being enacted in Washington DC.
Feedback that the organic industry has received is that not enough noise was made when GE-alfalfa and GE-salmon were being deliberated at the USDA and FDA. The government received a few hundred thousand emails in protest.
That is simply not enough. It needs to be millions and millions of emails.
If you do not understand the extent to which President Obama promotes a pro-GMO agenda, please watch this video with Andrew Kimbrell from The Center for Food Safety. You will be shocked and outraged.
– Drive Prices Down The one complaint that I hear all of the time is that organic food is too expensive.
Organic food is more expensive than conventionally-grown food because of government subsidies that artificially depress the prices of conventional food. Organic food receives practically no government help at all.
As Gary Hirshberg pointed out on Friday night, we can push prices down if we have more demand. He has witnessed price decreases when Stonyfield purchased an increasing amount of organic cane sugar from Brazil.
The main problem that the organic food industry has is a marketing one. Organic means something. Organic has a brand. Organic has standards. Yet, a majority of consumers out there are not aware of this.
I am very eager to see what the leaders of the organic industry come up with and am really hoping that this national advertising campaign will do the job.
The next 17 months are make-or-break time for the organic industry.
We need to raise awareness about organic food and the dangers that GMOs present. Additionally, we need to have someone in the White House who protects the interests of organic farmers and consumers.
Right now, we have a president who cares much more about genetically-modified food than organic food. Very disturbing but true.