Some people in the organic industry may be familiar with the Organic & Natural Health Association, but most are probably not.
Until recently, I fell into the latter category.
Wanting to change that and also to better understand how this organization fits into the overall organic ecosystem, I attended its 4th Annual Conference in Fort Myers Beach, Florida last week. Not only did I walk away incredibly impressed by the speakers and the very high quality of attendees, but I was particularly struck by the approach of this group.
“We are a trade organization that is completely driven by consumer interests. In the end, we believe that making decisions about what is best for the consumer will make our companies money,” said Karen Howard, CEO of the Organic & Natural Health Association (O&N).
This commitment could be seen in its very early days, as O&N was originally founded to create a ‘natural’ certification for products.
“After 18 months of research and deliberation, we decided not to do a ‘natural’ seal because it was not in the best interest of consumers. The data shows that people believe ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ are the same, and the ability to define ‘natural’ in a meaningful way does not exist. That is why we abandoned this idea,” acknowledged Karen Howard.
Having opted not to pursue a ‘natural’ certification, O&N pivoted and decided to focus on three key areas — research, consumer education, and public advocacy. Its mission is to unite consumers and corporations while transforming business practices to be in alignment with regenerative systems that support the health of people and the planet.
Some of the more noteworthy activities or priorities of O&N include:
* A 3-year glyphosate research study where members agree to do testing on their products. The goal is to help clean up the supply chain and to better understand what are safe amounts of glyphosate, whether that is zero or some specified level for certain products.
* Preserve and promote current USDA organic standards and the expanded use of the USDA organic seal across market segments.
* The establishment of its NutrientPower campaign, which gives consumers the information and resources they need to become effective advocates for their own health.
* Conducting crowdsourced nutrient research field trials for Vitamin D and Omega-3s (which won the Nutrition Business Journal Award in 2018 for Education), and petitioning the FDA to approve a health claim concerning the association between Vitamin D and a decreased risk of preterm births.
* Supporting and promoting 3rd-party verified standards grounded in regenerative practices, including the American Grassfed Association’s Grassfed Standard for meat and dairy.
* Evaluating pathways to ensure consumer access to high-quality hemp and CBD products.
While O&N is heavily focused on the supplement industry right now, the group expects to soon move into food and personal care products.
“We are trying to teach people that food and dietary supplements are one and the same, and shoring up the supply chain is of critical importance,” said Karen Howard.
Based on what I experienced in Florida, it was apparent that O&N members are a part of the organization because of their sincere desire to raise the bar for their industry, but the networking and dealmaking opportunities are certainly a big draw as well.
“When the attendees include the A-Listers of our industry, the opportunity to better define current business opportunities — and discover ones not yet obvious — presents itself at every conversation. This association has allowed me to develop comprehensive partnerships, enabled my customers and my company to save money, and helped position ourselves as innovative and creative in the eyes of our industry peers,” said Anthony Wesson, Executive Vice President at Atrium Innovations, a company that was purchased by Nestle for $2.3 billion.
With its focus on the consumer and commitment to a regenerative supply chain, the approach of the Organic & Natural Health Association is in clear alignment with the most progressive brands in the organic food industry today.
Have a great day!
Max Goldberg, Editorlivingmaxwell
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