(Beyond Pesticides, April 26, 2007)
As concerns about the effects of pesticides in children’s food grows, sales of organic baby food have increased dramatically. Although it still only accounts for a fairly small portion of the overall baby food market, the organic baby food sector is booming.
Whole Foods Market Inc. said it has tripled the space allotted to organic baby products in the past five years. Last year, Gerber Products Company rebranded and broadened its organic line, and Abbott Laboratories introduced an organic version of its baby formula.
Organic baby food sales soared 21.6 percent to $116 million this past year, after jumping 16.4 percent a year earlier, according to The Nielsen Company. Meanwhile, overall baby food sales rose 3.1 percent to $3.7 billion in the same period, after being essentially flat a year earlier. The data were gleaned from U.S. grocery, drug and mass-market retailers, excluding Wal-Mart.
Big companies are not the only ones addressing the demand for organic baby products. Two years ago, Gigi Lee Chang started Plum Organics, a line of frozen baby foods that now is a very popular line, according to Whole Foods officials.
Ms. Lee Chang got the idea to start the company when she heard friends talking about her son’s healthy appetite. She decided the organic foods she had been preparing for him might be a good business opportunity. The products are sold nationally, and an extension of the line is planned for later in the year.
Producers said adhering to USDA regulations makes organic foods cost more but parents are willing to pay the difference. For example, a 25.7-ounce container of organic Similac formula retails for about $27.50, but the traditional brand would cost $23.50, according to Scott White, a vice president at Abbott Nutrition. Gerber said its organic products cost about 30 percent more than its traditional baby foods.
The growing organic baby food sales are part of a larger boom in organic products. This past year has also seen increasing numbers of sustainable vegetable and cotton growers; and even hospitals and schools are purchasing organic food.
TAKE ACTION: The Farm Bill currently heavily subsidizes conventional agriculture over organic growers. Contact your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative and tell them to support increased funding for organic growers in the farm bill. Take action today to ensure that there is sufficient funding authorized in the 2007 Farm Bill to protect our environment and ensure sustainable, healthy food for all.