and the challenge of passing the torch to others in the community to lead the
effort going forward. The same important issues that drove us to build this industry need to be spearheaded by today’s leaders. We need to continue to work
to build healthy soil to sequester carbon, ensure more nutrient-rich food, and
prevent the use of toxic and persistent chemical pesticides, which show up in
our bodies, our water supplies, and even the Arctic, where they have never
been used. As OTA goes forward, it’s important that today’s new leaders step
forward to carry this “organic torch” and pass it on to others to do the same.
Vice President, Smucker Natural Foods
OTA Board President, 2008 to present
What have been some of the biggest victories for OTA and what
are some of the challenges and opportunities in the future?
The big victory is the amazing growth in organic consis-
tently over the years both in distribution and consumer
awareness. In the past, it was a grassroots effort, so it was hard to find organic.
Now you see it everywhere. You mention organic and people have heard about
it. They’re more educated, they value it and they understand it better. We have
a lot of work to do but the train has left the station and it’s on its way.
The big challenge right now is the historic economic recession we’re having. The organic industry hasn’t faced economic challenges to this extent before. The good news is we believe that the organic consumer is very committed
and even when times are tough organic is one of the last things they would take
off their list. The economy aside, the trends are still very strong for organic.
The aging baby boomer population wants to be healthy and go out kicking and
screaming, and the younger generation is concerned about the world we live in
and what they are feeding their children. As these trends converge, there are
great opportunities for growth.
Another opportunity is the major marketing effort we launched this year
called “Organic: It’s Worth It,” which has reached over 30 million consumers
already. I’ve never seen such excitement and commitment to the promotion
side of our mission. Through online outreach, we’re connecting with consumers and answering questions of: What is organic? Why should I trust it?
What are the benefits? The campaign has been very effective. We are also able
to poll consumers and have received dynamic feedback which allows us to understand how can we reach out to more consumers.
What do you think has been key to OTAs success and how can we continue the momen-
tum with the next generation of leaders?
There has always been a collaborative effort in OTA’s two-pronged mission—to promote and protect organic. One tool which I believe has been really helpful is OTAs task force process. This has been a really powerful and
effective way to address issues, get work done and move us forward as an industry. As for the next generation of leaders, there is still a lot of work to be done.
Organic still accounts for just 3 percent of the total market, so there is ample
opportunity ahead of us for growth. It’s like the flywheel concept—it takes a
tremendous effort to get it going, but it is just as critical to continue moving it
forward with the same passion. Get involved. Get on a task force. We are much
more powerful when we work together. ;
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