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What Comes After Organics?

A recent article in the Independent found that, at least in the UK, sales of certified organic foods seem to be slowing down: "Indeed demand for organic food has fallen by more than a fifth since the recession began – more than any other "ethical" sector." But is the organic movement really losing its foothold? And what is it consumers really want from their food?

what_comes_after_organics_imageWhile sales abroad of organics may be slimming, they're still growing in the U.S., but so are other food trends, notably local. The number of farmers markets has skyrocketed in the last decade with more than 8,000 now in operation. That number was under 2,000 in the early 1990s.

That trend—connecting directly with farmers—is also leading to more lax concerns over whether products are "certified" organic or not. Many growers eschew pesticides and chemical fertilizers, but pass up the costly expense of getting their land certified. As more and more consumers get to know their growers, they're becoming more comfortable in supporting those small-scale farms whether organic or not.

And, according to the Independent, sales of Fair Trade certified products have more than doubled. Foods including coffee, tea, chocolate, oils, and grains harvested at above market prices are appealing to consumers concerned about the treatment of local communities, tribal cultures, and preserving biodiversity. Fair Trade producers can be given bigger incentives for, say, ethical harvesting of cacao beans (which makes all chocolate) that preserves the rainforest and their communities. When consumers learn about the child slave labor issues employed by many top chocolate brands, it’s a whole lot easier to justify paying more for Fair Trade.

Just last week, the EU announced it's enacting a "permanent" ban on all cosmetics that have been tested on animals. This is a huge step, even if you don't live in Europe. It sends a strong message to manufacturers that consumers know where their products come from and won't tolerate the unnecessary enslavement of animals for commercial gain. You can expect to see a lot more parts of the world follow the EU's suit. Hopefully the U.S. won't be too far behind.

Another trend to keep an eye on is sustainable seafood. While some experts suggest there's really no such thing right now as our oceans and rivers have been overfished and grossly polluted—there are certifiers and manufacturers working to reshape the industry and help consumers find more ethical seafood options.

While not a major concern for the EU or the UK because of labeling laws and regulations, Americans are extremely concerned about the use of genetically modified ingredients. DIY labeling campaigns are afoot across the country with consumers printing out "may contain GMOs" stickers and conspicuously placing them on suspicious products. Likewise, consumers are opting for non-GMO verified options. This also means more consumers are passing on junk foods and fast foods. Not only are they highly likely to contain genetically modified ingredients, but it's also no longer a secret that they're not at all good for you! Fresh whole foods and meals prepared at home are, thankfully, becoming quite the norm.

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