At my local supermarket, the organic produce section is expanding again. It seems that more and more people choose organic carrots, rather than the regular kind. My grandmother always insisted that carrots were good for me, never mind that she never heard of organic produce. Does anyone really believe that ordinary supermarket carrots are less than good for you? Still, an increasing number of people buy the organic variety, and pay a premium. In fact, at latest count, 13% of the U.S. carrot crop is certified organic. The U.S.D.A. reports that certified organic cropland in the U.S. has been growing at a double digit annual rate since the beginning of this century. There are now something like 20,000 organic food specialty stores and three out of four mainline grocers have organic produce offerings.
What does all of this mean to manufacturers?
>> Organic carrots are differentiated from the ordinary variety by the process by which they are produced. Because of that production process, organic carrots are perceived as healthier, even though there is no “healthy” problem with ordinary carrots. And an increasing number of people have demonstrated that they are willing to pay a premium for that perception. This suggests that opportunities may exist for manufacturers to address this demonstrated demand for healthier goods made through healthier manufacturing processes. “Healthier goods” and “healthier processes” don’t necessarily mean that the ordinary variety is less than healthful.
>> Organic farming processes use little, if any, chemical fertilizers or pesticides. So, suppliers of such products suffer when croplands go organic. On the other hand, demand for compost increases. The point here is that any significant change in production processes anywhere in your value chain may well affect you, for better or worse.
One of sustainability’s real strengths is that it can catalyze innovative thinking. One mode of innovation is to adapt ideas from other aspects of life. Paying attention to things far removed from manufacturing – like organic carrots – just might trigger a useful idea.
Your thoughts, comments and opinions are appreciated.