We all know that consumers are becoming more aware and wary of what goes into their bodies. They’re asking questions, reading labels, and researching food-related topics more than ever before. Organic food has been rising in popularity despite carrying price tags that are generally higher than their non-organic counterparts, but it seems that people are losing faith in their “organic” labels and beginning to look more at foods that are “natural.”
What’s that mean, you’re asking? It goes back to the label reading that I mentioned before. Natural foods usually have far fewer ingredients than your average packaged foods, which probably means fewer additives and preservatives. Natural foods have the core building blocks of a specific food product—and that’s it. One simple example: apple sauce. We looked specifically at Mott’s Original Apple Sauce and Mott’s Original Natural Apple Sauce. Mott’s Original Apple Sauce has these ingredients listed: APPLES, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, WATER, ASCORBIC ACID (VITAMIN C). If you look at the ingredients for Mott’s Original Natural Apple Sauce you’ll find one less ingredient—no high fructose corn syrup, so essentially, the applesauce is unsweetened. A lot of people are very wary of high fructose corn syrup, so the “natural” label is important to them. This is just one simple example.
According to Amy Sousa, senior research analyst at The Harman Group and co-author of the research firm’s Organic and Natural 2012 Report, “Organic is important, but it really comes down to ingredient lists more and more. Consumers really want fresher, less processed, more natural foods, and the more that ingredient list is clean, … the more enthusiasm consumers will have.” Brown Bag can certainly get behind that way of thinking. What about you?
The Organic and Natural 2012 report has some interesting info, as well. According to this report, 60 percent of guests said that their impression of a quick serve restaurant would improve if they offered organic products. Going further, Sousa states that brands that adhere to a larger social responsibility (whether it be serving natural products, sourcing sustainable proteins, etc.) can actually mean more to consumers than the word organic. So, maybe we’re not only becoming healthier but more environmentally aware as well.
There is a distinction that’s important to make between organic and natural though. Organic labeling has certain standards set by the USDA, “natural” does not. Let’s go back for a minute to that apple sauce. If you buy organic apple sauce, then you know that the apples used to make the sauce were held to a set of standards by the USDA, and they were produced without pesticides, etc. This same apple sauce might still be sweetened. Does that mean that now you have to look for “Organic, Natural Apple Sauce?” Not necessarily. Just read the label. Earth’s Best Organic Apple Sauce has these ingredients: Organic apples, water, ascorbic acid. The word natural is not part of its title.
There are some foods, and apples are one of them, that are on the Dirty Dozen list (a list compiled yearly of the fruits and veggies that retain the most pesticide residues). It’s recommended that people always eat organic apples and apple PRODUCTS (that means apple sauce, apple juice, etc.). This is also something to take into consideration when choosing your food.
Why does eating well have to be so complicated? Who knows. It’s a complex world. Our best advice when choosing your food—be aware, be informed and read labels. And come see us at Brown Bag! We promise to always give you exactly what you’ve asked for and the most straight-forward and honest choices around.
This chart can be found at http://www.stonyfield.com/why-organic/organic-vs-natural