Natural vs organic: What’s the difference, and do shoppers care?

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Is the term 'all-natural' still resonating with consumers?
Is the term 'all-natural' still resonating with consumers?

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How clean is your label, and who decides - plaintiff's attorneys or Whole Foods Market? Are ‘all-natural’ claims still resonating with consumers or are other on-pack cues more important? And do shoppers understand the difference between natural and organic claims? 

To find out more about 'natural' - the most emotive, used and abused term in food marketing - we’ve gathered together a panel of experts for an online 60-minute debate that will be broadcast LIVE on Tuesday September 30.

The FoodNavigator-USA Natural & Clean Label Trends Forum​ - sponsored by Virun​, Corbion Purac​, Kerry​ and Naturex​ - will start at 11.30am EDT on September 30, 2014.


In the first 50 minutes of the event - moderated by FoodNavigator-USA editor Elaine Watson - we will explore the following discussion points:

1 – Beyond ‘all-natural’​: What are consumers looking for?

2 - The legal lowdown​: Are natural claims worth the hassle?

3 - Who’s driving the natural and clean-label agenda​?

4 - Natural vs organic:​ What’s the difference, and do shoppers care?

The final 10 minutes will be devoted to Q&A, where listeners will be able to submit questions directly to the panel:


Nicole Dawes, CEO Late July

In 2012, Late July’s revenues were a modest $18.6m. In 2014, founder and CEO Nicole Dawes says the brand is "currently at a $60m run rate​", primarily due to explosive growth in sales of organic snack chips. Not bad going considering she’s vying for a share of some of the most vigorously contested shelf space in the industry. But there is no room for complacency, she says: “You can’t take your eyes off the ball for one minute. You’ve got to prove yourself every single day in the snacks aisle.”

PHIL ANSON - CEO, EVOL Foods (Boulder Brands)

Phil_Anson_Evol Foods mugshot

Funky frozen food brand EVOL generated net sales of $17m in 2013, but is likely to do considerably better in 2014 now it has the firepower of gluten-free giant Boulder Brands behind it, says CEO Phil Anson. But why are Millennials flocking to EVOL when some category giants (Healthy Choice, Lean Cuisine) are struggling to make any headway? Simple, says Anson. “It’s the same reason why people are going to Chipotle and natural brands like Amy's are taking space away from bigger brands. People are waking up and asking, What the hell is in my food?”

KRISTEN POLOVOY - Attorney, Montgomery McCracken


Kristen Polovoy is counsel in the litigation department of Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads LLP. Her practice includes general and complex commercial litigation with a focus on consumer fraud class action defense of consumer product manufacturers.

STEPHEN GARDNER - Director of Litigation, Center for Science in the Public Interest


Stephen Gardner has sued scores of food and beverage giants from PepsiCo to Kellogg, General Mills, and Coca-Cola over allegedly false and misleading claims, including ‘all-natural’ claims. He notes: “As I’ve frequently said as a consumer lawyer in these cases, I don’t care what a scientist or indeed a lawyer thinks ‘natural’ means. All that matters is what consumers think natural means. And consumers are entitled to be incorrect.”

DR DAN FABRICANT - CEO, Executive Director, Natural Products Association  

Dr_Dan_Fabricant mugshot

Dan Fabricant, PhD, leads the nation’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to the natural products industry. The NPA - which has 1,900 + members accounting for 10,000+ retail, manufacturing, wholesale, and distribution locations of natural products - has developed a Natural Seal for home and personal care products and is now developing one for foods and beverages .

The debate will be broadcast live at 11.30am EDT on Tuesday Sept 30. It will also be available afterwards on demand - but only to registered delegates.


The forum is sponsored by Virun​, ​which has developed technology enabling manufacturers to incorporate meaningful doses of fat-soluble functional ingredients such as omega-3 and resveratrol into water soluble and shelf-stable beverages - and keep their clean labels; 


Naturex​, which supplies natural colors, flavors, preservatives and health ingredients for food & beverage, nutraceutical, pharmaceutical and cosmetics manufacturers; 


Corbion Purac​,​ which has 80+ years of fermentation expertise and the use of natural raw materials to produce label-friendly food and beverage ingredients;


...and Kerry Group​, a global leader in ingredients and flavors for the food and beverage industry.


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If you want to find out how good your marketers are, ban them from ever saying "natural" on a label.

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