There are strong media indicators that the organic mystic is beginning to rapidly lag behind the ‘natural’ mystic, the latter, to the regular consumer mind, comprehensively embracing more attributes than ‘organics’ as respecting Nature(1).
We are being heavily bombarded with well deserved warnings of the many wrongful acts with which the modern world afflicts Nature, and we are turning to a kind of fanaticism that overcomes knowledge and reason. For the inadvertent consumer choosing a product, what can be more Nature loving and respectful than ‘natural’?
The problem is, how ‘natural’ are those ‘natural’ products offered in the trade? Even if we could arrive at a reasonable definition of ‘natural’ - something with complications far beyond a first quick approach - what percentage of ‘natural’ ingredients enter in a given ‘natural’ product? And how ‘natural’ are the processes applied to them? Who guarantees how natural products or process are? Where are the standards that define - even commercially - a ‘natural’ product?
Not even the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a clear definition of ‘natural’. Or they so said in the recent legal case against Snapple’s claim of ‘all natural’ juice(2).
If an unsuspecting buyer is asked what he/she understands a ‘natural’ product to be, he/she will reply mentioning a lot of properties and characteristics seemingly good for Nature, such as ‘healthy (i.e. non toxic, no pesticides, no preservatives, etc.)’, ‘non contaminating of the environment (i.e. low carbon output)’, ‘energy saving (i.e. local food)’, ‘respectful of life – for animals (i.e. animal welfare), plants (i.e. biodiversity, no synthetic herbicides, no harsh fertilisers, etc.) and humans (i.e. fair trade)’, etc. But, aren’t all these things and many others included in ‘organic’?
Obviously there is a lot of ignorance and impulsive decision-making at the time of purchase and use of socalled ‘natural’ products. But who is the main culprit for that ignorance?
‘Organics’ are ‘sleeping on its laurels’ and in serious risk of ‘missing the train’. Surveys show that even in the so called First World, most consumers are largely ignorant of what ‘organic’ really means. This severe pitfall is mainly due to a lack of communicating full extent of the benefits of organics in a clear and convincing manner so that consumers can make up their own mind on the relative values of ‘organic’ vs. ‘natural’. The responsibility for this shortcome lies on the organic industry field, and the result is the present swamping of organics by the clever marketers to ‘naturals’ and other cheap (but not necessarily inexpensive) commercial gimmicks.
As we have all read, the largest organic dairy in the USA, after years of pushing its producers into organics, is releasing a new non-organic ‘natural’ version of its popular dairy products. Their new ‘natural’ products being somewhat cheaper than their own organic lines represent an internal competition, thus reducing sales of the latter in detriment of the company’s organic producers.(3)
The word ‘natural’ needs no publicity, because it is well understood by everybody as opposed to ‘artificial’ or ‘synthetic’ and, therefore, ‘good for your health and for Nature’. On the other hand, ‘organic’ is a more ambiguous term for less informed consumers and the organic industry needs to make further efforts to make them understand the difference between the two terms at the time of deciding their purchases.
The organic industry cannot expect that savvy marketers of ‘naturals’ spend time and money to promote organics in detriment of the ‘naturals’ they are selling. The financial effort must be made by the organic industry itself.
Organics, please wake up!
1. US consumers think natural is greener than organic, says survey; Caroline Scott-Thomas, FoodNavigator-USA [
] July 6, 2009).
2. Consumer case reopened against Snapple’s ‘all-natural’ labels; Caroline Scott-Thomas, FoodNavigator-USA [
3. Horizon Sells Out Organic Farmers With New ‘Natural’ Milk; Organic Bytes #180, July 1, 2009.