A bottle of 7-Up came across my desk today for work. I'm not a big soda drinker so I didn't think anything of it until I looked closely and noticed a small band underneath the familiar 7-Up Logo.
"7-UP. Now 100% Natural."
I remember a time in my early 20s, ringing up customers and stocking shelves at the original Whole Foods in Austin, Texas. Organic and natural foods were from another planet, where brands like Ah Soy and Amy's were staples and you'd never see a mainstream, conventional brand even come through the receiving back door.
How times have changed. Whole Foods is no longer that little hippie grocery store on North Lamar, and retail behemoth Wal-Mart has announced their large-scale effort to court the organic and natural shopper by increasing their natural category.
Is this a good thing? I have mixed feelings.
I believe in food in its most pure, unadulterated state. I get organic. I prefer foods free from additives, foods that have been minimally processed. But I can't help but feel that major food manufactures are simply jumping on a bandwagon for the sake of sales.
Full disclosure: I am still in the grocery business. I do not mean to bite the hand that feeds me. It's just all so interesting to me.
Considering that the organic trade is the fastest growing category of foods in the retail sector I suppose all this makes sense. There was a time when eating natural and organic meant filling your body with pure, balanced, good-for-you foods. You weren't overloading on sugar and hydrogenated fats because that simply wasn't the profile of the category. But now it seems several companies are revamping their ingredients list so that they can be seen in a new, natural light.
Consider this: Silk Soy Milk is from Dean Foods. Cascadian Farms is owned by General Mills, Colgate-Palmolive recently bought Tom's of Maine. Kraft owns Boca Burgers, and Unilever recently introduced organic Ragu. Hormel has a new line called Hormel Natural Choice, and Frito Lay Natural & Organic has been available for some time.
So I ask: Is this a good thing? Is organic less important because it's backed by a large food comglomerate? Is it better because more people are eating natural and organic foods? Or are they just eating the same unbalanced foods but this time they're non-gmo, non-hydrogenated and less processed? I'd love to hear your thoughts.