Wednesdays at Whole Foods – Meet Koji, Cool Threads, Mango Mission
On the first Wednesday of every other month, I have a column called Wednesdays at Whole Foods. It showcases the most interesting news, products, store events, and happenings at the company.
DRINK TO YOUR HEALTH
It didn’t take long for me to be blown away by a new drink called Graindrops.
And apparently, the same holds true for Whole Foods Market, who first discovered Graindrops ten years ago in Germany at BioFach 2004, the world’s largest trade show dedicated to organic products.
At the time, Graindrops had only been selling single grain (rice, oat, spelt) milks in Europe.
But these were hardly your average milks.
Graindrops was incorporating something called Koji, an artisinal Japanese culturing process used to create such staples as soy sauce and miso.
Koji is a triple cultured process and gives the drink its probiotic, or beneficial bacteria, characteristics.
Unlike chemical or industrial enzymes, Koji contains more than 40 natural enzymes which enable all parts of the whole grain – starches, proteins and oils – to become bioavailable. Furthermore, Koji allows for the product to develop its delicious and distinct taste, texture, and aroma.
Since that fateful meeting in 2004, Graindrops has had its eye on the U.S. market but needed to figure out what the right product would be for American consumers. Fortunately for the company, Whole Foods Market took a real interest in Graindrops and provided crucial guidance along the way.
According to Susanne Lien, Co-Founder of Graindrops, “I cannot emphasize enough how tremendously supportive the grocery team at Whole Foods Market has been to us, from product development to packaging to introducing us to industry leaders. They helped us figure out where the market was trending and what product would meet their customer needs.”
The end result of years of collaboration, planning, and strategizing is arguably the most innovative drink you’ll see on grocery shelves today.
Graindrops is a certified organic, certified vegan, gluten-free, non-dairy probiotic beverage made with Biodynamic Koji, spring water and five grains (rice, gluten-free oats, millet, amaranth, and quinoa). Additionally, each serving contains 20 billion live active cultures.
Only available at Whole Foods Market, Graindrops comes in three flavors – Original, Wild Blueberry and Mango Ginger – and will be rolled out nationally over the next month.
With the demand for non-dairy products exploding in popularity and a growing understanding of the importance of gut health, which probiotics helps to provide, Graindrops has the potential to be a massive winner.
I couldn’t stop drinking it.
CLOTHES WITH A CONSCIENCE
While many of us are very aware of the food that we put into our bodies and the personal care products that we put onto our bodies, how much do we think about the type of clothes that we put on top of our bodies?
Not nearly enough.
However, I believe that this is starting to change and organic clothing will be the next frontier in conscious consumption, as options become more stylish, accessible, and affordable.
What will also boost interest in this category is the increased awareness that toxic chemicals used in clothing can leach into our bodies and that the conventional apparel production process is generally an environmental and social nightmare.
Addressing these problems is PACT, one of the most compelling companies that I have ever come across, in the organic food sector or otherwise.
PACT isn’t just about using organic cotton in its socks, underwear, t-shirts, leggings, and baby clothes, but part of the company’s mission is to get very heavily involved in the entire supply chain, making sure that it is as clean and responsible as possible. This begins with the growing and harvesting of the organic cotton to the final sewing and all of the processes in between.
Organic cotton purchased by the company must be trusted and traceable, PACT will only do business with other companies who are similarly dedicated to progressing the sustainable apparel industry, and the company’s supply chain is fully GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standards) and Fair Trade certified by third-party auditors.
In India, where genetically-modified cotton is causing massive social problems, PACT has teamed up with Chetna Organic, an organization that works with more than 15,000 small and marginal farmers with the goal of improving their livelihood options and making non-GMO farming a sustainable and profitable occupation.
“Having visited the cotton farms in India myself, I’ve witnessed the authenticity of the supply chain and the remarkable impact that Chetna has on community development,” says Joe Dickson, Senior Global Quality Standards Coordinator for Whole Foods Market.
At Whole Foods Market on July 1st, PACT will introduce new underwear, leggings, camisoles and baby wear, bolstering its line of organic cotton, Fair Trade certified apparel to 19 product styles featuring 78 different items. Additionally, exclusive to Whole Foods Market, PACT is currently offering Fair Trade certified t-shirts for $14.99.
It is time that organic clothing becomes a much greater part of the conversation, and companies such as PACT will make it a lot easier for this to happen.
BETTERING THE WORLD WITH MANGOS
It’s that time of year again when Whole Foods Market shoppers can purchase the juicy Whole Trade mangos from Haiti and in doing so, they’ll be helping to support a path out of poverty for thousands of Haitian families.
Some important information to know:
· 80% of Haitians live on less than $2 per day. The sweet and unique Francique mangos are a critical source of income for thousands of families.
· Whole Foods Market buys from a network of more than 1,650 Fair Trade certified Haitian farmers. 50% of these farmers are women and 60% own less than 3 mango trees each.
· Whole Trade mango sales are more than doubling the income for small farmers. Last year, farmers selling to Whole Foods Market averaged $150 in sales, compared to $60 for those who sold to other buyers.
· More than 80% of Whole Trade farmers reported using their additional income to plant more mango trees. Haiti suffers from extreme deforestation since trees are cut for charcoal. When trees are valued for their fruit, more trees are planted, less are cut down, and Haiti can begin to reverse the deep environmental impacts of deforestation.
· Farmers also report using their extra income to pay school fees for children (approximately 3,300 children last fall) and to invest in goats, chickens or cattle to earn additional income between mango seasons.
In regards to the mangos not being certified organic, I was told this. Whole Foods Market said that to the best of their knowledge there are no agrochemicals or synthetic fertilizers used at any of these farms. Chemicals are just not accessible or affordable to these farmers. Also, as soon as a farmer has demonstrated an ability to deliver quality fruit, an investment is made to get this farm certified organic.
One thing that we also shouldn’t forget is that Haitians aren’t exactly fans of industrial agriculture. They committed to burn 60,000 sacks of Monsanto’s seeds after the earthquake devastated the island a few years ago.
Even though I only buy organic, I will purchase these mangos because (a) I believe them to be “clean” (b) these people greatly need our support (c) I love mangos and (d) any country that burns Monsanto’s seeds is a country that I want to support.
And I hope you’ll do the same.
The Whole Trade mangos will be available for sale at least until the end of June.
(Watch the video below to get an inside look at this entire mango program from Haiti.)