James Richardson of The Hartman Group commenting on current trends in organic food

By: The Infocast Food Team

In preparation for our upcoming Food 2.0 Summit this June, the Infocast food team had the chance to speak with James Richardson of the Hartman Group and get his comments on the current trends in organic food. Read his comments by clicking the link below.

  1. What are some current crucial issues surrounding the organic marketplace?
    •  Center store organic processed foods face a growing threat from the proliferation of natural and minimally processed alternatives. Organic is primarily a farm-level purity distinction. Although it was once a relatively unique signpost to less processed food in the center store, today, the  farther one processes food away from the farm commodity, the less unique pull organic has and the more it is being surrounded by cheaper, natural/non-GMO alternatives, including local products.  Knowing where in the center store to invest is more critical than ever before for long term plays in the space.
    • Latent demand for organic produce, meat, eggs and dairy is well ahead of supply still, in our view. Innovative technologies to scale supply could help reduce prices and unleash this demand further in conventional channels. Price continues to be the biggest suppressant, especially in farm-commodities, cooking oils, canned vegetables, etc.
  2. What impact is the GMO/Non-GMO issue having on consumer purchasing patterns?
    • We believe that non-GMO is a bit exaggerated as a purchase driver in food/beverage today. Although the subject of endless media discussion, non-GMO labeling is having more effect on shopping decisions in categories where there is a relative absence of higher order innovation OR little demand for it. For example, in RTE popcorn, it is becoming a variable in natural/organic brand purchasing. The power of non-GMO as a purchase driver is also weaker than the power of organic, because consumers can not relate it to a specific health harm unique to the genetic modification of seeds.  And clear narratives of health harm are what popularize purity distinctions in food culture today. Non-GMO opponents have been unable to communicate a clear and present danger, so the most consistently non-GMO averse consumers tend be very hard core organic shoppers, a small population. Where all else is equal, concerned consumers may pick the non-GMO option, but is it worth the supply chain investment to make the claim? We do not see a strong case in every category.

James Richardson, SVP, Knowledge and Innovation, THE HARTMAN GROUP, INC