I've been contending for awhile that the push of organic food into the mainstream was not a slam dunk.
A lot of commentators last year worried about the impact of Wal-Mart getting into the organic market - both on standards and on supplies. But no one really considered what would happen if Wal-Mart's move into organics did not work out. That's a question to consider now, especially with a large potential ramp up in supplies. There are shortages now as products come on line but what happens if the "mainstream" customers don't show up? Will farmers get stuck with a lot of excess organic acreage ... and milk?
Choice quotes of mainstream food execs in a Reuters story:
"Wal-Mart asked everyone for organic (food). At the end of the day consumers buy benefits and it's not exactly clear what the benefits are from organic. They might end up being niche propositions."
- Alan Jope, Global Food Group Vice President at Unilever Plc
"It's not as rapid as Wal-Mart might have liked or as any of us might have liked, but it is definitely growing."
- Cindy Hennessy, senior vice president of innovation at Cadbury Americas beverages.
"We believe the natural market is the larger opportunity."
- Hormel CEO Jeffrey Ettinger
Note that "natural," as a term, is largely undefined by the USDA (applying only to "minimally processed" meat without artificial additives).
This story will continue to unfold in the coming months, as large companies adjust their expectations and demand, potentially, eases a bit.
- Samuel Fromartz