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Organic Food Exhibition|Testing Experts Discuss Organic Trends for 2024

2024.04.23

Organic Food Exhibition spoke with a handful of individuals who are deeply involved in the world of food testing and asked them about their thoughts on organic in the year ahead.

 

Here is what they had to say.

 

Colleen Kavanagh, founder and CEO of ZEGO Foods, an organic brand that has been testing its products for more than 500 different types of pesticides, heavy metals and allergens for many years. All of its test results are posted on the company’s website and linked to every product’s QR code.

 

Organic brands, which conduct extensive product testing for pesticides, heavy metals and other toxins, encounter notable challenges.

 

Consumers may struggle to understand why these brands are priced higher than standard organic products, but what they do not realize is that USDA organic certification is mostly a paper trail with little testing and it doesn’t cover heavy metals at all. And, of course, this additional purity testing, which goes beyond standard USDA organic certification, is expensive, time-consuming and risky.

 

The good news is that 2024 is the start of a paradigm change.

 

With the development of resilient regional food systems, such as the one ZEGO and Snacktivist are working on for gluten-free grains, purity testing can be efficiently conducted at the farm lot level. Testing at this level allows us to give farmers a price premium for meeting purity standards and reduces testing costs and risk for brands, ultimately leading to lower consumer prices and higher sales velocity.

 

In 2024, consumer engagement will also transform. Interactive tools will soon enable shoppers to not just quickly comprehend a brand’s purity levels but to ask their favorite brands to adopt stricter testing standards. This growing consumer voice will prompt organic brands to require pesticide and heavy metal testing from their suppliers, fostering a market where farmers are incentivized and rewarded to produce crops that exceed organic standards.

 

We are moving beyond the era of basic certifications and “gotcha” reports on food toxins. We are moving toward interconnected collaborative food systems benefiting consumers and farmers that ultimately help them be in control of their soil, food and personal health.

 

Henry Rowlands, founder of The Detox Project, which oversees the Glyphosate Residue Free, CleanScan and Gold Standard Detox certifications.

 

Given the superior value proposition of organic, including its positive environmental and social benefits, the industry’s 2023 growth rate of 4% and its 6% share of total food sales in the U.S. both seem too low.

 

So, this begs the question, in 2024 and beyond, what can organic do to grow faster and become more ubiquitous?

 

Search data from Google paints a very clear picture of what consumers are interested in and how brands should be prioritizing their marketing and operating initiatives. The answer lies in transparency. Consumers are demanding to know what is in their food.

 

The Detox Project’s Q4 2023 Google search results confirm this, as we saw a huge rise in terms such as “traceability”, “contaminants”, “glyphosate-free” and “toxic chemicals”. Additionally, the inbound interest from brands for our Glyphosate Residue Free certification and CleanScan — our new QR code-based certification and traceability system — has been incredibly strong.

 

Organic Food Exhibition believes that in the year ahead, the most progressive brands will embrace more traceability technology solutions that enable consumers to easily access supply chain information, such as where products come from and what contaminants they have been tested for. If the rest of the industry can follow suit and make testing, transparency and traceability the norm — rather than the exception — I could easily see organic returning to double digit growth rates and the possibility of reaching that double-digit market share number for the first time ever.

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