The Evolution of Organics

By Natalie Cajic, published in Canadian Manufacturing, Aug 20th, 2013

The second annual Hall of Legends recognizing the significant contributions of individuals to the American natural products industry saw Canadian organic food manufacturer Arran Stephens grace the stage with his wife, Ratana.

The founders of Nature’s Path summed up the growth of organics succinctly in a ceremony at the 2013 Natural Products Expo West in the Anaheim Convention Center in March. “What began as a tiny seed found fertile ground and became a movement,” noted Arran Stephens, who started Nature’s Path Foods Inc. in 1985.

Indeed, the pioneering brand has seen organics move into the mainstream, with today’s shopper able to find certified organic products at most grocery, drug, club or mass merchandisers. From whole foods to pre-packaged products, there’s now usually an organic version. And regardless of the controversies surrounding organics, the sector has broad-scale support from Canadians, and that isn’t about to change any time soon.

Growing and changing

An organic audit from the Canadian Organic Trade Association (COTA) shows that Canada’s organic market grew to $3.7 billion in 2012. Comparing the new data with two other audits conducted in 2006 and 2008, there was nearly a tripling of organic food and beverage sales in mainstream retail, from $586 million in 2006 to $1.4 million in 2012. National highlights released in April show fruit and vegetables capturing the lion’s share of sales, with 40 per cent of the total. That was followed by beverages (16 per cent), dairy and eggs (15 per cent), bread and ready-to-eat cereals (12 per cent), packaged and prepared foods (eight per cent), condiments and snack foods (four per cent each) and meat, fish and poultry (one per cent).

Shauna MacKinnon, Projects & Development manager at COTA, says the new report is a first of its kind for the membership-based trade organization, and represents the most comprehensive study of Canada’s organic marketplace to date. A detailed national market and consumer analysis will be available in September.

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