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The Incredibly Challenging Endeavor of Marketing Regenerative Products to Consumers

If you were at Natural Products Expo West this past March, you probably realized one thing: regenerative was the hottest topic of the show.

And for very good reason.

Arguably, regenerative will be the most important theme in the organic industry for the next ten years because our environment, our farms and our food supply are so dependent on soil becoming healthier. Regenerative agriculture is about improving and regenerating the soil, so it can do things such as sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

I also believe that we will experience segmentation within the industry where regenerative organic products will command a premium versus organic products. With consumers viewing regenerative organic products as offering superior quality, brands will increasingly look to capitalize on this important development and launch their own regenerative SKUs.

As a handful of companies have already begun to introduce regenerative organic products into the marketplace, I wanted to share my observations. Without question, marketing regenerative products is no easy task, but here are a few things to consider.


The truth is that most people have no idea what regenerative means, and as of today, simply putting the word “regenerative” on the packaging will not be enough.

Here are two data points to confirm this.

First, despite the fact that USDA certified organic products have been around for more than 15 years, people still don’t understand what organic means.

In its 2017 U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends report, The Food Marketing Institute said that shoppers are looking for “natural” (24%) and “Non-GMO” (23%) claims much more than “organic” ones (16%), despite the fact that both of those claims are inferior to organic. If consumers are still not getting the message about organic, how will they understand regenerative, a much more confusing and unregulated term?

Second, I recently spoke to a major organic brand who said they did an informal poll inside of a national natural supermarket chain. Out of the 20 people that the company spoke with, not one person knew what regenerative was.

Admittedly, this was a very, very small sampling, but the results should make us all take notice.


Most people come to organic because they do not want to consume toxic chemicals that have been sprayed on their food.

This was confirmed in a recent poll, which asked 3,000 citizens in the UK, Australia and the U.S. why they purchase organic food. Overwhelmingly, the answer was for personal health reasons versus concern for the environment, farmers or animals.

Earlier this year, I wrote about a device being developed at the BioNutrient Food Association, which, the group hopes, will eventually be able to measure nutrient density for any fruit or vegetable.

“We are using people’s self-interest to enact global change,” said Dan Kittredge, founder of the organization.

The premise behind this approach is that consumers will act in their self-interest and buy the most nutritious food possible.

Farmers will then be financially motivated to grow the most nutritious food possible, and it is expected that these farming methods and soil management techniques — regenerative agriculture — will benefit the environment the most.

When marketing regenerative products to organic consumers, the same approach should be considered, and the messaging needs to address consumers’ self-interest. But how?

By conveying that regenerative agriculture will result in healthier soil, which will result in healthier, more nutritious food products for consumers. This will appeal to their self-interest.

Executives at organic food companies have a big challenge ahead of themselves when trying to market regenerative products to customers. There are many important aspects and benefits to regenerative agriculture that should be communicated, but unfortunately, they cannot all fit on the front of the packaging.

The good news is that approximately 20% of organic consumers are making purchasing decisions based on environmental reasons. Furthermore, according to The Food Marketing Institute, 8 out of 10 mobile-minded shoppers said they are using smartphones for digital coupons, recipes, sales specials and product reviews. This means brands could put information about regenerative practices online (accessible by a smartphone), and there is a real likelihood that it will be read.

Despite the complexities around the issue, it is essential that we get this right and consumers flock toward regenerative products. Our planet cannot afford for shoppers to be uninformed or confused.

Have a great day!

Max Goldberg, Founder

This Week's News Items

Weekly News Summaries

First Course
The Washington Post

Climate Change Could Impact the Nutrition of Food

By Chris Mooney

Rice, a staple food for billions of people around the world, could become much less nutritious if the amount of carbon dioxide in the environment continues to surge.


The Organic Trade Association Launches Anti-Fraud Pilot Project

By Maggie McNeil

The OTA has launched a 3-month anti-fraud pilot program which utilizes a "best practices guide," and the 11 participants represent the entire organic supply chain.

Capital Press

Organic Advocates Suffer Setback in 'Sunset Rule' Case

By Mateusz Perkowski

A federal judge said he lacked jurisdiction in the case over a change to the USDA's Sunset Rule, which now makes it harder to remove synthetic ingredients from organic.


USDA Announces an Oversight and Enforcement Action Plan for Organic

With the USDA's new plan to crack down on fraud, the question is whether it has the political will to enforce the rules on the industry's largest and most influential companies.

Second Course
The Telegraph

Gene-Edited Crops Will be Grown in the UK for the First Time Ever

By Charles Hymas

Exploiting a legal loophole, the UK will grow gene-edited plants that aim to produce extra amounts of Omega-3s.

The Guardian

Lawsuit Claims Monsanto Hid the Danger of Roundup

By Carey Gillam

Using internal correspondence within Monsanto, a plaintiff in California is contending that Monsanto knew for decades that its weedkiller product was carcinogenic.

Third Course

Pepsi to Buy Bare Foods for Approximately $200M

By Sara Eisen

Bare Foods, a manufacturer of organic and Non-GMO fruit and vegetable snacks, has just agreed to be purchased by Pepsi for nearly $200M.

New Hope Network

Big Food and Conventional Supermarkets are Suffering the Same Pain

By John Grubb

An interesting analysis of how big CPG companies and mass retailers gained market share together and are now losing it together.

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This Week's Quick Hits

Quick Hits

* Noted sustainable food writer Michael Pollan has made a departure from the culinary world with his new book about the promise and power of psychedelics. He was also recently interviewed about this on Tim Ferriss’ podcast.

* Congrats to The Cornucopia Institute, whose Organic Egg Scorecard was profiled in The New York Times.

* The Palomar Family YMCA campus in San Diego was officially rededicated and named the Jim Bronner Gymnasium. Jim Bronner passed away 20 years ago and led the Dr. Bronner’s empire. This fascinating and inspirational piece talks about the philosophy of Jim and how his company’s product became the snowmaking foam for Hollywood.

* The Organic Trade Association gave an incredibly deserving Champions Award to Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL). He has been an amazing and outspoken defender of organic, particularly in this latest farm bill.

* Lastly, major kudos to Nature’s Path and the entire Stephens family. Yesterday, the company’s website went “dark” in protest of the Canadian’s government backing of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to the West Coast. Here is the full story.



* (Original artwork above by Arran Stephens, the company’s founder and Co-CEO)

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