Opinion: organic, more than just the absence of chemicals

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Opinion: organic, more than just the absence of chemicals

By Oster and Associates president and creative director Bev Oster

Bev OsterWhether you embrace organic products or not, we can safely say that the "organic trend" is more than a fad, and it is here to stay.  Every year the sale of organic products, produce in particular, grows by double digits. And there isn't an organization around that wouldn't like to see that kind of explosive growth.

One of the buzz words in business in the past few years has been sustainability. It might be better to look at organic produce from that standpoint and not just from the lack of chemicals used in growing. Good organic growing provides healthy produce for consumers, but perhaps even more important is the positive impact on the environment and the people who are working in the fields. Sustainable growing considers the use of chemicals, water and replenishment of the soil.

It also shows positive effects for farm workers and wild life in the growing areas. Not only is the health of the consumer eating the produce compromised by chemicals, but so is the health of the work force producing our food. Additionally, most organic growers are concerned about the environmental impact of packaging and shipping, so choosing to grow organically requires an entire shift in thought and production practices.

For wholesalers and retailers of organic produce, there is a burden of responsibility to educate the entire marketing chain, through to the consumer, on what organic means to them, and why it is important. Many consumer choices are made based on attractive packaging and compelling marketing, but with little understanding of the real value of the purchase. They may have the mistaken impression that they are buying produce that is inferior in size and appearance because it is organic.

Today's consumers learn new concepts and buying habits in a wide variety of ways. From traditional point of purchase, to games that attract children, the process is often subtle but effective. And having a consistent set of messages that is embraced from production through consumption increases the success of the program.

Growers need to educate field workers and their communities. Distributors should pass the word on to their retailers.  Retailers have the most fun of all – talking to the end consumers. Produce should be fun, eye catching, healthful and environmentally sound. An organic banana is not just another piece of fruit. It has a long history that makes it a wise choice for many reasons.

One of our biggest responsibilities to society is the education we can give consumers on the choices they are required to make on a daily basis. Most consumers don't realize that the chemicals used in conventional growing in some cases are causing a decline in the bird population, or that field workers are having babies with birth defects. When the positive environmental attributes of organic are added to the health benefits, we see a continued growth to a booming industry.

Bev Oster is the president and creative director of Oster and Associates, a full-service branding agency with a 27-year history in the produce industry. Its list includes Organics Unlimited, which it is running a cause marketing campaign for this year, including the promotion of the business' GROW (Giving Resources and Opportunities to Workers) program. Her client list also includes Proven Winners and Mighty 'Mato. For more information, you can visit her website or call 619-906-5540.


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