By the time Andy Wright displayed his organic barbecue sauces at the big Anuga Food Show in Germany this fall, he’d already participated in two other international organic promotion events coordinated by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) during the year, and this novice in the export market had learned quite a bit. Wright put his new knowledge to the test in Germany, and he left Anuga with almost 50 solid business leads.
“This wouldn’t have happened without OTA,” said Wright, Owner of the Minnesota-based Acme Organics and maker of the organic Triple Crown BBQ sauce. “OTA not only gave us a platform to show our products to an international audience, but it also connected us to the right people, the decision makers, and that was huge.”
From those leads in Anuga, Wright is now in the process of closing on three deals to sell his barbecue sauce in Sweden, Switzerland and Australia. Wright notes that the initial contracts aren’t enormous, but that “for a small company, a little bit can create a lot.”
A little bit can create a lot. A solid investment can yield significant results. For more than 15 years in its role as an official cooperator in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Market Access Program (MAP), OTA has been investing in the promotion of American organic agricultural products in global markets and connecting buyers and sellers in order to reap a good return for organic and create new organic customers around the world.
This hard work has not gone unnoticed by USDA. This week the agency awarded $889,393 to OTA in MAP funds for export promotion activities in 2016, an 11 percent increase from the association’s 2015 funding. Plans are well underway at OTA headquarters on how to leverage that money to enable the biggest return on investment for American organic stakeholders.
“We thank USDA for recognizing the tremendous value and opportunities that our export promotion programs are creating for the organic industry, and for enabling us through its generous funding to continue this work,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of OTA. “Our analysis shows that for every dollar we spent in promotion activities this year, over $36 in projected organic sales were created. These new sales not only help organic grow, but they create jobs, boost incomes, and contribute in a positive way to our communities.”
Returns for organic, and beyond
A case in point: Jeff and Peggy Sutton founded To Your Health Sprouted Flour Co. in rural Alabama. They have participated in OTA’s export activities for three years now, and Jeff said as a direct result of that involvement, they are beginning to sell their products in the UK, South Korea, Mexico and Japan, and are getting business inquiries every day from all over the world. As demand and sales for their sprouted organic grains and flours have grown, their business has evolved from two part-time employees less than a decade ago to a projected payroll of 45 by the end of next year.
“We’re building a new 26,000-square-foot facility, and this will allow us to quintuple our production capacity. We now employ 30 folks, but we’ll be pushing 45 employees within the next year,” said Sutton. “Our involvement with OTA’s export activities has been a tremendous asset in helping us get started in the export market and creating these opportunities for growth.”
OTA’s export promotion programs in 2015 spanned three continents and included strategic participation and showcasing of American organic products in the biggest food shows in Europe and Asia, sponsoring an Organic Day in Japan, exploring potential opportunities in the Middle East, representing the U.S. organic industry at the World’s Fair in Milan, connecting foreign buyers with U.S. organic suppliers at major trade shows in America, and commissioning a landmark study on organic trade to provide organic stakeholders with the most up-to-date information on the global market.
In 2016, OTA will build on its activities to bring more information about market conditions and opportunities to new and first-time organic exporters, to display and introduce organic products to buyers, and to help first-time exporters connect with qualified global buyers.
“It is not easy to get into the export market,” said Monique Marez, Associate Director of International Trade for OTA. “Our mission is to help open the doors and remove some of the barriers for American organic businesses, and to educate international buyers and consumers on the integrity, diversity and quality of U.S. organic products. There are huge opportunities for the U.S. organic sector throughout the world, and we are invested in helping the industry build relationships and brand awareness so they can take advantage of these opportunities.”
OTA’s membership represents about 85 percent of U.S. organic exports. The market promotion activities administered by OTA are open to the entire organic industry, not just OTA members. OTA provides further assistance to U.S. organic exporters with its online U.S. Organic Export Directory.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has released a proposed rule to establish requirements for fermented and hydrolyzed foods, or foods that contain fermented or hydrolyzed ingredients, and bear the “gluten-free” claim. The proposed rule, titled “Gluten-Free Labeling of Fermented or Hydrolyzed Foods,” pertains to foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, pickles, cheese, green olives, vinegar, and FDA regulated beers.
In 2013, the FDA issued the gluten-free final rule, which addressed the uncertainty in interpreting the results of current gluten test methods for fermented and hydrolyzed foods in terms of intact gluten. Due to this uncertainty, the FDA has issued this proposed rule to provide alternative means for the agency to verify compliance for fermented or hydrolyzed foods labeled “gluten-free” based on records that are made and kept by the manufacturer.
The proposed rule, when finalized, would require these manufacturers to make and keep records demonstrating assurance that:
Distilled foods such as distilled vinegars are also included in the proposed rule. Distillation is a purification process that separates volatile components from non-volatile components such as proteins. Thus, when properly done, gluten should not be present in distilled foods. The proposed rule states that FDA would evaluate compliance of distilled foods by verifying the absence of protein (including gluten) using scientifically valid analytical methods that can detect the presence of protein or protein fragments in the distilled food.
The FDA is accepting public comments beginning Wednesday, November 18. To electronically submit comments to the docket, visit www.regulations.gov and type docket number “FDA-2014-N-1021” in the search box.
To submit comments to the docket by mail, use the following address. Be sure to include docket number “FDA-2014-N-1021” on each page of your written comments.
Division of Dockets Management
Food and Drug Administration
5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061
Rockville, MD 20852
By Lorrie Baumann
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has just released figures that tell us how well organic farmers are doing in the marketplace. The big surprise? While U.S. sales of organic food products broke records this year, the number of acres of farmland devoted to organic agriculture in this country declined between 2008 and 2014. The USDA found 14,540 organic farms in the U.S. in 2008, compared to 14,093 in 2014. The number of acres devoted to organic production declined from just over 4 million in 2008 to 3.67 million in 2014.
The figures come from the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, which gathered information on all known certified organic, exempt and transitioning organic farms throughout the U.S. in the first few months of this year. “Exempt” refers to farms that follow national organic standards but have less than $5,000 in annual sales. These farms are allowed to use the term “organic;” they just can’t use the USDA Organic seal. Transitioning farms are those that are converting acreage to organic production but haven’t reached the three-year period under organic management that’s required before produce raised on that acreage can be certified as organic.
While the acreage devoted to organic agriculture in this country has fallen, purchases of organic food have been growing. In the U.S. last year, consumers spent $35.9 billion on organic food, representing 4 percent of total food sales, and an 11 percent increase over the previous year, according to the Organic Trade Association. The majority of American households in all regions of the country now purchase organic food, from 68 to almost 80 percent of households in southern states to nearly 90 percent on the West Coast and in New England, the OTA says.
The total market value of organic agricultural products sold by American farmers in 2014 was $5.5 billion, of which $3.3 billion was for crops, including vegetables, fruit, nuts, grain, hay and soybeans, and $2.2 billion was livestock, poultry and products like milk and eggs. Milk is by far the most important organic livestock and poultry product in the U.S. market.
American farmers have also become global suppliers of fresh organic produce, with more than $550 million worth of organic products exported from the U.S. in 2014, according to an OTA study released in April. The top five organic products exported from the U.S. in 2014 were apples, lettuce, grapes, spinach and strawberries. However, imports of organic product outpaced those exports, amounting to nearly $1.3 billion in 2014. The top five organic imported products are coffee, soybeans, olive oil, bananas and wine. “At the rate that organic is growing, organic will double in size in six years. The current theory that my company is using is that by 2020 we [organic producers] will be at least 10 percent of the U.S. food market. How are we going to do that if we lack the raw materials? We are importing more soybeans than we produce, significantly more than we produce,” said Lynn Clarkson, President of Clarkson Grain.
He noted that in 2013, U.S. imports of organic corn went up by 67 percent, with much of that coming from Romania. India is an important source of the soybeans imported into the U.S., according to Clarkson. “We are turning over our best markets to other countries,” he said. “When you can’t find supply, you go to countries that are organic by default. Until we can tell American farmers that there’s a secure market, we need to convince them that it’s good enough that they can step in…. Every small town has a ‘table of wisdom,’ and many of those tables are extraordinarily adverse to organic farming. With the downturn in corn prices, farmers are starting to pay more attention to the possibility, and that’s making cultural concerns less important as economic concerns grow.”
Also from the USDA report, 10 states account for 78 percent of all organic sales in the U.S. California alone produced $2.2 billion worth of organic products in 2014 from 2,805 certified and exempt organic farms and a total of 687,168 acres devoted to organic production, up from 470,903 in 2008. California farmers accounted for half of all organic crops produced in the U.S. in 2014. Washington, in second place, produced 12 percent of organic crops in the U.S. and totaled up $515 million in organic sales. In order, the top 10 states in organic sales were California, Washington, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Wisconsin, Texas, New York, Colorado, Michigan and Iowa.
California also leads the nation in organic livestock and poultry sales, with $271 million, or 41 percent of all organic livestock sales in the U.S. and $301 million in livestock and poultry products – milk and eggs. Pennsylvania came in second in livestock and poultry sales with $112 million, or 17 percent of all organic livestock sales. Wisconsin came in second in organic livestock and poultry product sales, with $127 million or 8 percent of the U.S. total.
SnackSafely.com, publishers of the Safe Snack Guide – a curated catalog of peanut and tree nut-free foods used by thousands of schools nationwide – has welcomed JSB Industries to its growing partnership of manufacturers.
Muffin Town, the brand founded by JSB in 1978, specializes in the supply of high quality baked products to foodservice & retail companies. Its individually wrapped SunWise SunButter and Jelly Sandwich is manufactured in a peanut and tree nut-free facility and is an exceptional option for people sensitive to these allergens.
“Families coping with food allergies often have difficulties finding foods that are safe to eat, especially in public settings,” says Jack Anderson, President and CEO of JSB Industries. “Our products provide safe, delicious options for families avoiding peanuts and tree nuts, at home and when they’re on the go. SnackSafely.com’s deep roots in food allergy and school advocacy make them the ideal partner to help us reach out to those families. We’re proud to be featured in their publications.”
“We welcome JSB Industries to our growing partnership of over 50 responsible manufacturers,” says Dave Bloom, CEO of SnackSafely.com. “They’ve committed to providing more complete information regarding the potential for allergen exposure than the FDA requires, and in doing so embrace the needs of those with severe food allergies.”
Joining the partnership is absolutely free, as are listings in the Safe Snack Guide and Allergence, the free allergen screening service. Manufacturers are encouraged to inquire at snacksafely.com/contact-us or call 347.915.4777.
Empire Kosher Poultry, Inc. has just introduced a new brand logo reflecting its natural and organic product values. The brand logo is concurrent with the launch of new Empire® Kosher deli and grocery products, including the first-ever line of kosher uncured deli meat products that are minimally processed, contain no artificial ingredients, have no added nitrates or nitrites, and are made from turkey and chicken that are never administered antibiotics. Empire operates its own hatchery, humanely-raising its flocks on family farms in accordance with Empire’s standards. In addition, Empire Kosher will introduce a line of kosher, certified organic soups and broths, and a special reduced sodium chicken broth formulation certified kosher for Passover.
“Empire Kosher brand poultry and deli meat products are on-trend to meet the demands of our loyal consumers who have enjoyed Empire Kosher products for decades, as well as our growing number of millennial consumers,” stated Jeffrey N. Brown, Chief Executive Officer of Empire Kosher Poultry, Inc. “Consumers can now enjoy new products meeting the high standards for kosher and quality that Empire Kosher delivers in its natural or certified organic products, and we are extending that vision to deli meat products, value-added poultry, and soups and broths to be introduced this year at Kosherfest, the world’s largest B2B trade show for the kosher industry,” he continued. “We will continue to build upon our very strong brand recognition in the kosher market to expand into new categories, with innovative products combining our expertise in kosher with our knowledge of the natural and organic market, to meet the demands of the growing number of consumers who want both,” he concluded.
Empire Kosher’s new deli line-up debuting at Kosherfest includes natural, slow-roasted turkey breast; natural smoked turkey breast; and natural turkey pastrami in both bulk and pre-sliced 7-ounce sizes. The pre-sliced products come in resealable packaging that has a reduced environmental footprint compared to the brand’s deli line previously sold in tubs.
After years of avoiding the question of what “natural” means on a food label, the federal Food and Drug Administration has been prodded into action by citizen petitions. The agency has received three petitions asking that it define the term “natural” as it is used on food labels and another petition asking the agency to prohibit the use of the turn. Federal courts have also been asking the FDA to make a determination whether food products containing ingredients produced using genetic engineering or foods containing high fructose corn syrup may be labeled as “natural,” according to the agency.
Those requests have prompted the FDA to ask members of the public to provide information and to offer comments on what they think “natural” means — or ought to mean — when it’s used on food labels as it explores the use of the term. Historically, the FDA has considered the term “natural” to mean that nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in that food. However, this policy was not intended to address food production methods, such as the use of pesticides, nor did it explicitly address food processing or manufacturing methods, such as thermal technologies, pasteurization, or irradiation. The FDA also did not consider whether the term “natural” should describe any nutritional or other health benefit.
Specifically, the FDA asks for information and public comment on questions such as:
The FDA is accepting public comments beginning on November 12, 2015. To electronically submit comments to the docket, visit http://www.regulations.gov and type FDA-2014-N-1207 in the search box.
By Lorrie Baumann
Sweet Earth Natural Foods, which makes award winning, all natural plant-based foods, is on a mission to persuade more Americans that plant-based foods can be an affordable, convenient and delicious way to eat less meat. “Our food is plant based, but not just for vegetarians and vegans – everyone wants to eat more vegetables and whole grains,” said Sweet Earth Natural Foods CEO Kelly Swette. “We want mainstream customers who are trying to eat less meat because they recognize it has a negative effect on their health and the environment. Plant-based foods are simply more sustainable.”
Sweet Earth offers a range of heat-and-eat products made with plant-based meat alternatives that consumers will recognize as options for multiple day parts, starting with breakfast. They include burritos, veggie burgers, seed based energy bars and the company’s newest products, Farmstand Flaxbread Breakfast Sandwiches, which respond to the breakfast-food-all-day trend that fast food restaurants are embracing enthusiastically. “It’s nice for people to have a delicious portable option that doesn’t require a spoon. And, that portability is what makes breakfast all day work,” Swette said.
“Breakfast sandwiches are also for people who want comfort convenient foods without compromising flavor,” she added. “We see that as one of the areas where we have been particularly innovative.”
The Farmstead Flaxbread Breakfast Sandwiches come in the kind of range you’d expect from a line of breakfast sandwiches, except that a plant-based meat alternative has replaced the sausage, bacon or ham you’d find in a conventional breakfast sandwich. One variety comes with cage free eggs, sharp cheddar and meatless Benevolent Bacon™ on a bun made with whole wheat, oat bran and flaxseed. This variety provides 14.5 grams of whole grains, 22 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. Other varieties are similar, and there’s even a vegan version in which meatless Harmless Ham™, a spicy chickpea patty and a sun-dried tomato spread are sandwiched on the bun. Each variety is packaged as a two-pack that retails for $4.49. Swette notes, “We have a version that’s vegan, but we also have egg sandwiches too. We’ve chosen mainstream flavors like ham and Swiss, bacon and Cheddar that people love. We know that people are interested in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, but we also think they are increasingly looking for clean proteins, free of preservatives, hormones and antibiotics.”
Sweet Earth’s burrito line also hits the mark on portability and convenience. There’s a line that’s designed around breakfast flavors and a range that’s based on food truck-type fusions of international flavors. The Peruvian Burrito, for instance, is filled with black beans, red quinoa, sweet potato, goat cheese, roasted corn and spirulina, while the Santa Cruz is filled with a classic Southwest blend of pinto beans, Monterey Jack cheese, oregano and a tangy salsa.
Sweet Earth’s products are, in general, not for the consumer who’s avoiding gluten. “That really isn’t our point of view,” Swette said. “We are more focused on what we put into the product: real vegetables, whole grains, and the natural consequences are more fiber, vitamins and inherently healthy food.”
Sweet Earth Natural Foods products are distributed by UNFI and are available in Whole Foods, Target, Kroger and other retailers nationwide.
Blue Sky Family Farms, presented by Egg Innovations, the nation’s largest producer of 100 percent free range and pasture raised eggs, announced the arrival of Blue Sky Family Farms eggs to the Whole Foods Market Mid-Atlantic Division. The three new offerings of Blue Sky Family Farms’ Free Range Non-GMO Brown, Organic and Pasture Raised Organic eggs are available in Whole Foods Market stores in Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey (Marlton, Princeton and Cherry Hill),Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington D.C.
Blue Sky Family Farms’ eggs are currently available at more than 550 finer grocery and natural stores throughout the Midwest. The expansion into Whole Foods Market Mid-Atlantic Division represents the more than 100 years of success of the family-owned operation. Egg Innovations’ 2015 growth includes completing 33 new barns, a new $5 million organic, non-GMO feed mill, and construction on a new processing plant that allows for future expansions in 2016 and beyond.
“We’re excited to have Blue Sky Family Farms in Whole Foods Market in the Mid-Atlantic area to meet the demand for better eggs and more ethical treatment of chickens,” said John Brunnquell, Founder and President of Egg Innovations and Blue Sky Family Farms. “For more than 25 years, Egg Innovations has provided enhanced value specialty eggs, and we are eager to expand to this new area with a great partner in Whole Foods Market.”
With its tag line, “Ethical Eggs for the Humane Race,” Blue Sky Family Farms holds to the highest Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) “Certified Humane” standards for free range and pasture raised eggs.
Follow Your Heart, makers of egg-free foods since the 70s, and the producers of the leading vegetarian mayonnaise alternative, Vegenaise®, will launch a 100 percent plant-based whole egg replacer called VeganEgg™ to the public in early November. With egg prices at an all-time high and an increased need for a more sustainable egg alternative, Follow Your Heart is pleased to announce that VeganEgg has finally hatched. VeganEgg is an entirely egg-free, cholesterol-free egg replacer that emulates the flavor, texture and functional properties of eggs, and even makes scrambles, quiches, frittatas, as well as replaces eggs in baked goods.
The team at Follow Your Heart has always kept sustainability top-of-mind. From their own solar-powered production facility, to their entirely plant-based lineup of retail products, founders Bob Goldberg and Paul Lewin have long sought to provide their customers with better food options for both health and the environment. “Enormous amounts of water, resources and fossil fuels go into chicken and egg production, not to mention the inhumane conditions that many of these animals are subjected to,” said Goldberg, President and CEO of Follow Your Heart. “We have been working toward VeganEgg for over a decade now, and there were many challenges that we overcame before developing a product that could truly replace eggs.”
As long-standing innovators in the natural foods marketplace, Follow Your Heart is introducing two new ingredients in VeganEgg: “algal flour” and “algal protein,” both derived from a natural microalgae. “When we discovered that microalgae are a highly-sustainable source of nutritionally rich ingredients, we immediately knew they could help us make better plant-based foods,” said Goldberg. Whole algal flour and protein naturally contain high levels of healthy lipids, carbohydrates and micronutrients. These nutrient-dense microalgae also contain all essential amino acids and are a great source of dietary fiber. While not all of VeganEgg’s ingredients can be found in the traditional kitchen pantry, together they create an egg alternative well suited for use in cookies, muffins, cakes and fluffy scrambles and omelets.
All of the ingredients in VeganEgg are plant-based, allergen-free and non-GMO. In addition to functioning like eggs, VeganEgg is a good source of dietary fiber (4g per serving) and calcium (10 percent DV per serving), contains fewer calories and has less than half the fat of eggs.
VeganEgg will initially be available online through Amazon.com for $6.99 – $7.99. Each 4-ounce package of VeganEgg will produce the equivalent of a dozen eggs. The shelf life of VeganEgg is six months from date of manufacture.
By Lorrie Baumann
Meat alternative Quorn, the market leader in the U.S. natural foods channel, is quickly gaining mainstream acceptance for a product line whose protein comes from fungi. “The specific type of fungi allows the mimicking of the taste of real meat with much better health benefits,” says Sanjay Panchal, General Manager of Quorn Foods USA. The Mycoprotein in Quorn products is a complete protein that’s naturally low in saturated fat and high in fiber, according to Panchal. “It has as much protein as an egg, as much fiber as broccoli,” he said.
The products contain no soy or GMOs, and the protein source is also environmentally friendly, with a carbon and water footprint that’s about 90 percent less than beef and 75 percent less than chicken, Panchal said. “In addition to the great health benefits and environmental benefits, our food just tastes amazing,” he said. “I’ve got three sons, age 9, 7 and 3, and we, probably once or twice a week, we replace their chicken nuggets with Quorn nuggets, and they Hoover them.”
Five products in the Quorn line are gluten free: Grounds, a product that substitutes for crumbled ground meat; Chik’n Tenders; Chik’n Cutlet, Turk’y Roast and Bacon Style Slices. “It gives folks looking for a gluten-free option another opportunity to use a food like ours in their recipes to satisfy their specific dietary restrictions,” Panchal said.
Quorn appeals to consumers who want to eat less meat but also want both convenience and the flexibility to adapt recipes that already work for them. “Our food doesn’t just attract vegetarians,” he added. “What you’ll find is people like our family who are complete carnivores, but if they’re looking for a way to reduce the meat in their diet, for whatever reason, this appeals. The appeal of a meat alternative, and Quorn specifically, is very broad and broadening…. Our growth rate year to date is 29 percent in sales versus a year ago and growing across all channels. We’re really pleased with our performance.”
The product line includes options like Grounds that will work for the consumer who has the time and the desire to cook meals like spaghetti Bolognese from scratch but also includes heat and eat options like Jalapeno and Three Cheese Stuffed Chik’n Cutlets for the consumer who values speed and convenience. “It’s really easy to prepare on weeknights. It’s basically straight out of the freezer and into the pan or the oven,” Panchal said. “With the nuggets, it’s 10 minutes to eating it…. With the Grounds, you mix it with a little water, taco seasoning and cheese and make it into a quesadilla. It’s a really simple food to make, and that’s why we like it as a family.”
Quorn products retail for $3.69 to $4.99 every day, depending on the retailer, for a package that serves four people. Quorn is distributed nationally.