Breaking News on Food & Beverage Development - North AmericaEU edition | APAC edition

News > Suppliers

Read more breaking news



Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Certified Transitional helps conventional farms make the switch to organic

1 comment

By Elizabeth Crawford

Last updated on 10-Mar-2017 at 06:25 GMT2017-03-10T06:25:47Z

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Certified Transitional Organic
Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Certified Transitional Organic
Loading the player...

Despite organic’s strong appeal with double-digit year-over-year growth since the early 1990s, and the promise of a significant premium price over that of its conventional counterparts, many American farmers are hesitant to jump on board – creating a sourcing nightmare for some manufacturers.

In fact, less than 1% of US farmland is organic today – a figure that doesn’t jibe well with the Organic Trade Association’s projection that organic sales in the next 15 years will grow from an estimated $43.3 billion in 2015 to $90 billion annually in 2030, and its prediction that organic food will account for 10% of everything consumed in the country.

So what gives? Why are farmers slow to make the move on what appears on the surface to be a sure bet in terms of consumer demand and solidly higher prices?

Well, a major barrier is the three years it takes farmers and ranchers to transition from conventional to organic, during which time many will experience lower yields and higher production costs without the benefit of the higher price fully-certified organic commands.

To address this issue, many industry stakeholders – including the Organic Trade Association, USDA and manufacturers and farmers – are exploring the idea of Certified Transitional – a protocol that would allow transitioning farmers to charge slightly higher prices to offset the switch from conventional to organic and also assure manufacturers that the ingredients they are buying are being farmed organically.

One of the leading players in creating Certified Transitional Organic is the natural food manufacturer Kashi, which teamed with organic certifier Quality Assurance International to create an open-source protocol that any brand, manufacturer or farmer could follow for certification.

In this episode of FoodNavigator-USA’s Soup-To-Nuts podcast, Kashi’s senior director of supply chain and sustainability Nicole Nestojko, and Richard Gemperle, president of Edelweiss Nut Company, which supplies almonds to Kashi, explain what the certification entails and how it is helping farmers.

A three-year struggle

As a farmer currently making the switch to organic, Richard explained the hand-wringing he felt about the transition period and how the Certified Transitional protocol developed by Kashi helped tip the scales in favor of the move.

“It is not a mystery to me that there is only 1% [of organic farmland] because, pardon the pun, but it is a tough row to hoe,” Gemperle said. “Through that three-year period, you have rising input costs, you have the production cost is increasing, your labor cost is increasing and simultaneously, in my experience … you do see lower production. And those two make it very difficult to pencil out that three-year period. So, I look at it as an equation where that premium for the transitional organic kind of solves the equation in favor of making that leap of faith and going with an organic program.”

He further explained that in order for organic to really work it needs to not only be sustainable for the planet, but also economically sustainable for the farmer to ensure the survival of both.

A helping hand, not a hand out

Helping farmers, like Gemperle, balance these needs and goals is why Kashi worked with QAI to create the Certified Transitional program. Nestojko explains that the genesis for the program came about two years ago after hearing a similar story to Gemperle’s from another farmer about how difficult the three-year transition period can be.   

“It was this lightbulb moment for us that really kicked off this journey for us,” she said. “We started thinking about this and how we could create a solution to what is really quite a big challenge in our industry…. So, we worked with QAI to develop the protocol that really helps, again, eliminate that journey and allows consumers to a make difference and, you know, increased accessibility to organic.”

As for the specifics of Kashi’s program, Nestojko explained there are two components – a protocol that sets the standards for farmers and everyone who touches the crop through the manufacturing process, and a label that helps consumers understand how the product was made and how buying it can help transition more farmland to organic.

To further support the program, Kashi launched last year is Dark Cocoa Karma Shredded Wheat Biscuits made with certified transitional hard red winter wheat, which was sourced from 860 acres of transitional farmland. And the company’s efforts immediately paid off. Nestojko notes that the launch was the company’s most successful new product launch in five years.

She explained that many consumers likely picked up the cereal because it sounded delicious and then, once they brought it home, they read on the back of the box about the wheat farmer Kashi supplies from and his journey as Certified Transitional organic.

Building on that success, Kashi is expanding the program with the launch of four Chewy Nut Butter Bars, which are made with Almonds from Gemperle’s farm, as well as Certified Transitional dates and sorghum from other farms in the US.

In addition to expanding its portfolio, Kashi has expanded the acres of Certified Transitional farmland from just two farms last year to 11 farms currently – bringing the total Certified Transitional land Kashi is sourcing from to nearly 3,500. But Kashi isn’t done yet.

“We have an aspiration overtime to move the needle on this less than 1% of US farmland [being] organic, so our aspiration over time is to get to 100% of our portfolio as Certified Transitional or organic and so every year, in our plans, we have new products that will Certified Transitional and organic,” Nestojko said.

Gemperle commends Kashi for its open source Certified Transitional program and says it is a better option than manufacturers signing long-term agreements with farmers to buy from them if they transition to organic because it expands the overall pool of organic.

A national certified transitional program

The Organic Trade Association and USDA also are pushing forward this idea of a Certified Transitional.

Earlier this year, USDA announced a new National Certified Transitional Program that will use standards developed by the Organic Trade Association. The goal of the program is to harmonize standards currently used by different certifiers and create a consistent set of rules.

Also notable is USDA’s decision last year to offer farmers transitioning from conventional to certified organic an option to insure their crops at a higher price than traditional crops. This is just one more way that the government is trying to ease the burden of the financial strain during the three-year transition period. 

1 comment (Comments are now closed)

podcast inquiry

What is the name of this podcast so I can listen to it on Podcast Addict??? I tried several different searches to no avail.

Report abuse

Posted by Gabe Bernal
10 March 2017 | 23h582017-03-10T23:58:15Z

Related products

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: grain-free vs ancient grain trends

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Gluten free movement spawns divergent grain-free vs ancient grain trends

As the tenacious gluten-free trend continues to grow and mature into a market behemoth...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Agency enforcement and litigation targets

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: FDA & FTC move forward with enforcement even with some regulations in limbo

New regulations and draft guidances may be on hold at many federal agencies until...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Evolving views on breakfast

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Evolving views on breakfast create challenges, opportunities for CPGs

Breakfast has long been known as the most important meal of the day, but...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: What snacks are hot and where consumers buy them

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: What snacks are hot and where consumers are buying them is evolving

US consumers are snacking more than ever, according to IRI data, but an analyst...

Soup-to-Nuts Podcast: Confections hold steady in face of war on sugar

Soup-to-Nuts Podcast: Confections hold steady in face of the war on sugar

Despite significant headwinds generated by the escalating war on sugar and increasing consumer preferences...

Soup-to-Nuts Podcast: Driving ecommerce with omnichannel marketing

Soup-to-Nuts Podcast: Driving ecommerce sales with an omnichannel marketing approach

Sales of food and beverage online may be lagging significantly behind those of other...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Will Moringa steal kale's top superfood spot?

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Will Moringa knock kale out of the top superfood spot?

For years kale has reigned supreme as the go-to superfood for many Americans thanks...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Fair Trade certification tackles coconut supply

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Could Fair Trade certification help avoid a coconut shortage?

Ever since coconut water burst on to the US market several years ago, Americans...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Emerging class action litigation targets

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Emerging class action litigation targets

The number of class action cases filed against food and beverage companies continues to...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Threats to bees threaten whole food industry

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Industry stakeholders seek to take the sting out of threats to bees’ health

Spring has finally sprung, which means birds are chirping, crops are blooming and bees...

Baldor Specialty Food's efforts to cut food waste are adding money

Baldor Specialty Foods' efforts to cut food waste are adding money

As the issue of food waste rises in prominence in the US, industry players...

Organic industry asks for funds to expand production, oversight

Organic industry asks legislators for funds to expand domestic production & increase oversight

More than a hundred representatives for the organic industry descended on Capitol Hill in...

Standardized language for expiration dates will help reduce food waste

Standardized language for expiration dates should help reduce food waste, according to GMA

According to the nonprofit Feeding America, 126 billion pounds of food is wasted each...

Vox Pop: In sports nutrition, 'usually just protein'

Vox Pop: 'Protein, and that's pretty much it actually'

Sports nutrition is a booming industry, with Euromonitor estimating a value of $7.4bn in...

Food Starter helps entrepreneurs break into food and beverage industry

Food Starter helps entrepreneurs break into the competitive food and beverage industry

Launching a food business takes more than secret family recipe – it also takes...

Braskem packaging changes color if a product is unfit for consumption

Braskem packaging changes color if a product is unfit for consumption

Marcia Pires

polymer science researcher , Braskem

How to shift perception of GMOs from good vs evil to simply a choice

Could the biotech disclosure law help shift perception of GMOs from good vs evil to simply a choice?

In many ways, the conversation about GMOs has been a debate about good versus...

SmartLabel helps brands meet consumers’ mounting clean label demands

SmartLabel gains traction as a tool for brands to meet consumers’ mounting clean label demands

While SmartLabel is still in its relative infancy, manufacturers are flocking to the technology...

Potential for Nutrition Facts label delay should not slow compliance

The potential of a delay to Nutrition Facts label changes should not slow compliance efforts

Assuming FDA does not delay the deadline for the new Nutrition Fact label as...

Key Industry Events


Access all events listing

Our events, Shows & Conferences...

Live Supplier Webinars

Food Innovation editorial webinar
William Reed Business Media
Optimizing California Almonds for Plant-Forward Formulations
Almond Board of California

On demand Supplier Webinars

FoodNavigator-USA Flavor Trends editorial webinar
William Reed Business Media
FoodNavigator-USA Clean Label editorial webinar
William Reed Business Media
All supplier webinars