April 14, 2020
I recently had the privilege of travelling to the USA with a group of other Australian certified organic businesses, to learn about the US organic market. This trip included time with major stores, co-operatives, producers, growers and restaurants from the California region.
It was a whirlwind 5 days (and to be honest, a bit messy with the coronavirus situation, albeit early days) but incredibly enlightening. Here are some highlights of the trip, what I learnt and how I want this to impact on Clémence Organics.
We started off the trip with the big kahuna – Whole Foods. If you don’t know, Whole Foods is the largest natural and organic supermarket in the USA (and probably the world) with around 500 stores.
We met with Randy Ducummon, Vice President of the Northern California and Reno region, an extremely passionate guy who had worked his way up from the shop floor to the boardroom. He clearly loved what he did and his enthusiasm for his business was infectious.
Probably the most interesting thing I learnt was how they had transitioned from being a bricks and mortar grocer to an online organic superstar (quite clearly moreso after the acquisition by Amazon). They had increased their online capabilities to the point where there was nothing they couldn’t ship and in record time. These systems are priceless, especially in times of self-isolation, allowing customers unlimited access to healthy products.
Mark Squire radiated a similar enthusiasm for organics, only he’s been in the industry for 50 years! One of the owners of Good Earth, a large organic supermarket with 2 stores in the San Francisco region, Mark is a big deal in the business.
We sat there entranced as Mark spoke of how Good Earth began and how they hold true to their original tenets of sharing healthy organic food with their community. After so many years, his belief in the power of organics and the role they played in returning our planet to good health was undiminished.
Mark took great pride in educating customers on the produce he purchased, including which farm it came from and how many miles from the store that was. How I would love to be able to do this with the ingredients I purchase. Definitely something to aspire to!
Earl’s Organic Produce
Probably the most passionate person I met on this trip was Earl from Earl’s Organic Produce. This guy just oozed enthusiasm and love for his organic produce. His business worked 24/7 to ensure shops and restaurants had access to the best organic fruits and vegetables from across the country.
The dedication and enthusiasm Earl displayed for this produce, his people (I LOVED that he would stop himself and say hi to anyone who passed us during the hour of our time together) and ultimately his business, made me want to buy his goods.
Similarly, the team at Good Eggs, Miyoko’s Creamery, Coke Farms and Rainbow Grocery, all spoke about their businesses with such vision. They clearly felt that the organic industry had so much room to grow and so much to offer, and they wanted to be a big part of that growth.
California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF)
This all came to a point when we met with the team from California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). A non-profit organisation, CCOF serves organic producers throughout North America by providing services, advocacy and educational programs. Their CEO, Kelly Damewood (pictured centre below), spoke so confidently about the future of the industry and clearly loved being a part of a growing movement towards health and sustainability.
One thing I really loved was that the team members we met with from CCOF were all young women, including the CEO herself. It was inspiring to see that it is the youth of California that are standing up and supporting its future.
Reflections and looking to the future
On the whole, the main take-home from the trip was that organics are viewed differently in the USA than they are in Australia.
Over there, organics are a large part of the fresh produce and personal product sector, and stores can sell 100% certified organic products and be profitable. The health benefits, not only for the consumer, but also for the earth, are a no brainer, and it’s gradually becoming an everyday part of US households.
Given the current health crisis, I can’t help but feel that now more than ever its time that organics was taken seriously the world over, and nowhere more so than here in Australia.
You see, certified organic is all about health – better nutrition and reduced exposure to chemicals (pesticides, herbicides etc). As a naturopath, my focus is and has always been on health. My products don’t just make your skin look good, they make it healthy. They also keep your body healthy (by not exposing it to unnecessary chemicals) and the planet healthy (by not supporting the commercial growth of non-organic botanicals). In my mind, especially with my family history of cancer, there is simply no other way.
The other main take-home from this trip is that it’s the people behind the brands, behind the companies, that make them special. Their love and passion for their organic products make me want to support them, buy their products, invest in their future.
Given that I’m the person behind my brand, I really want my passion for what I do and what I believe in to shine through. And so, I’m going to talk to you more. Share my passion for organics, for healthy skincare and for the future.
I want you to understand that I’m in this business because I truly love what my products represent and the changes they make in people’s lives, and ultimately, the planet.
So keep an eye on our social media, on our emails and on our website as I contribute more personal posts (and try to overcome my shyness for the camera – eek!) to put my passion out there more.
Best of health to you,