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The Growing Organic Industry in California

california growing organic industry

Owing to the growing demand for organic products, Mark Carroll, Director of Gelson’s Markets in California, has predicted that there is immense growth potential for any retailer ready to invest in the organic product industry. He was part of a panel of distributors at the United Fresh Produce Association workshop, along with Samantha Cabaluna, VP of Earthbound Farms, and Jason Hollinger, GM of Four Seasons Produce Inc. All three of them painted a very bright picture for organic produce.

Organic products are healthier, safer, and unadulterated as compared to conventional food items. Organic products are more expensive than conventional products. Off late, the organic industry has seen a boom in California. Not only the rich, but a middle-class citizen is also opting for organic or eco friendly promotional items, over adulterated vegetables.

Statistics of the Organic Industry

Carroll’s firm, Gelson’s Markets, has seen a growth of 30 to 35 per cent in the organic market in its first year, followed by a healthy 20 to 25 per cent annual growth. About one-fifth of the total income of Gelson’s Markets is from organic products sale. Carroll suggests that retailers in this business must not confuse “organic products” as a category in itself, but they should consider it as a variety within the conventional farming categories.

Target Customers for Eco-Friendly Promotional Items

A demographic of educated and younger population prefers eco friendly promotional items. About 52 per cent of families say they bought more organic items this year than last year. People flinch from buying organic products solely due to highly priced products. However, this problem can now be combated with the marginal difference in prices of conventional and organic food. Recent surveys indicate that people have already turned to organic products owing to four main advantages – supporting local farmers, avoiding pesticides and toxins, eco-friendly farming that does not harm the farmlands, and the taste of rich unadulterated food.

Maintaining a Good Relationship With Suppliers

There are very few organic suppliers. There might be only a couple of green bean growers, said Hollinger. It is important to maintain a cordial relationship with suppliers to get an edge over competitors in times of scarce produce. On the other hand, retailers have variable needs and capacity to store the produce, a distributor must cater to these needs accordingly.

Handling Organic Products With Care

As per the standards of National Organic Standard, the distributor must adhere to a few basic rules. In the warehouse, organic products must be kept on the top shelves, they can never be kept under or alongside conventional food products, otherwise the juices of the latter drip into eco friendly promotional items.

Cabaluna pointed out that organics hold one-fifth of the market of salads and half of the market for lettuce. She attributes this to the negligible difference in price of conventionally grown lettuce and organic lettuce. She mentioned the need to reduce the difference of price of organic and conventional products to gain major market share with respect to all vegetables.


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