Now in its third year, the “All Things Organic” conference and trade show” is growing in stature alongside the dynamic sector it represents. Bruce Hoggard wore out a lot of shoe leather so he could bring us this report on the most exciting and innovative developments in the organics sector presented last month in Texas, both on the exhibition floor and in the conference rooms. Hoggard walks us through the show.

The organic market still continues to grow at an impressive rate. Retail sales in the US are expected to top US$20bn by 2005, up from just $1bn in 1990. Organic food sales have grown a whopping 20% per year during the past ten years, compared to 1% per year for the food industry overall. However, the organic food area as compared to conventional foods is still only about 3% of total food sales.

Since its inception in 2000, the OTA’s All Things Organic Conference and Trade Show has undergone, and continues to go through, several changes. So far these changes have been positive adding to the value and importance of the event to the organic industry. This year there were more than 250 exhibitors and registrants came from 44 states and 25 countries. They were delivered an extensive education programme and numerous networking activities, making the event another success.

An integral part of the event is the seminars and guest speakers. On Thursday, the keynote address was delivered by Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, who talked about “Food Safety and Food Politics”. The general session for the day was “Getting the Organic Message into the Mainstream Media”, a valuable lesson on how to raise and promote the organic industry and its benefits.

On Friday the general session provided a glimpse into the organic and food futures called “Visioning Tomorrow’s Market”. The other session, “Introduction to Good Organic Retailing Practices Workshop” was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the Organic Trade Association’s “Good Organic Retailing Practices” manual. At that day’s retail session the topic focused on “Getting to the Heart of the Organic Consumer.”

Mixing business with pleasure

As in previous years the Thursday evening was reserved for the ever-popular welcome barbecue at the beautiful Barr Mansion. The relaxing and casual event featured organic food, drink and the music of Toni Price, a local blues musician.

The trade show component opened on Friday, going from 12 noon until 6pm while on Saturday the show operated from noon until 4pm.

Exhibitors were also treated to several seminars. Two of these were “Use of Labelling of Organic Savoury Flavours and the NOP” and “ACCESS JAPAN: What You Need to Know About Exporting Your Organic Product”

Spotlight on organic clothing

Although a little off the food topic a spotlight of this year’s Show was organic fibre and fashion with the “Wear Organic! The Organic Fibre Fashion Show”. This topic and the interest of the mainstream fashion industry have been bubbling in the background during the past two years. This year it burst forth, premiering with a runway fashion show featuring designs in organic apparel for women, men, children and infants. There were also bed and bath products, accessories and fabrics made with organic fibres.

Several companies including NIKE, Under the Canopy, Sunshine Au Naturel, Cottonfield, Kate Scott and Birdland Ranch Ecofashions were among the 13 organic fashion innovators showcasing designs made from organic fibre. Over 75 organic apparel designs were featured in the show, and major buyers, including Victoria’s Secret, Giorgio Armani, GAIAM and Donna Karan, were in the audience.

Change of location ahead

As for next year, things are changing again. The All Things Organic Conference and Trade Show will co-locate with the Food Marketing Institute’s FMI Show, the Fancy Food Show, and the United 2004 Produce Expo & Conference. The events will take place May 2-4, 2004 at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois.

Each year the FMI, Fancy Food and Produce Expo shows bring together more than 25,000 decision-makers from all over the world representing retail chains, warehouse clubs, superstores, independent grocers, gourmet shops, specialty retailers, manufacturers, distributors, hotels, restaurants and bakeries to name but a few.

The trade show this year introduced new exhibitors to the attendees. However, many of the original exhibitors were again on hand, reconfirming once again the value of the event to the organic industry. Here are several of those companies and their products.

Wild River Natural Foods

With a hot summer looming ahead and with children involved in outdoor activities where fluid intake is important, Wild River Natural Foods offers a healthy organic drink alternative for children. “Skootz Organic Fruit Juice” was introduced at the Natural Products Expo in Anaheim, California in March 2003.

Skootz Juice, as it is referred to, is available in three flavours and was developed for children between the ages of one and ten years, although adults may enjoy it too. There are three flavours: Apple Grape Jumble, Concord Grape Jumble and Pear. There are no additional additives, just organic juice and filtered water. Each flavour is gently formulated from organic concentrates of Apple, Concord Grape and Pear juice from the Pacific Northwest of the United States. The juices are formulated using between 70% and 80% juice concentrate.

Skootz is packaged for children on the go, in fun, easy to handle kid-sized sport bottles. Each bottle is a convenient, 8oz, single serve container, pasteurised and shelf stable so no refrigeration is required until opened. The easy to use, “push-pull” sports style cap limits spills and messes and makes it an easy solution to today’s busy and active lifestyle.

Up Country Organics

This American company based in Vermont has several organic product lines under the name Up Country Naturals, which include baking mixes, salad dressings, marinades, pancake mixes and syrups. The company produces delicious food products the old fashioned way, with care and pride. It is located on the banks of the Moose River in Northern Vermont.

One popular product is Up Country Naturals’ pancake and waffle mixes. The mixes are stone ground from selected organic grains to emulate the wholesome, country fresh tastes produced in New England kitchens. The fresh, whole-grain flavour of each product is maintained in a sealed box with an inner bag for freshness. There are four choices, each being 16oz, including Organic Buttermilk & Honey, Buckwheat & Honey, Multi-grain and Original

Pancakes or waffles would not be complete with out the perfect toppings, pure maple syrup and/or several other fruit syrups. These fruit flavours include; blueberry, strawberry and raspberry and Up Country Naturals also has a variety of sizes to select from.

Although not known for sure, the discovery of the technique to collect sap and cook it into maple syrup, is attributed to the first Europeans who arrived in North America and had contact with the Native American tribes of the eastern woodlands.

A quote from a British Royal Society paper written in 1685 claims that: “The Savages of Canada, in the time that the sap rises, in the Maple, make an incision in the Tree, by which it runs out; and after they have evaporated eight pounds of the liquor, there remains one pound as sweet….”

Whatever the origin, maple syrup is also great to have on several desserts and ice cream.

Another product line offered by Up Country Organics is its cake mixes. These include: Yellow Cake, Devil’s Food, Fudge Brownie, and a Corn Muffin and an All Purpose Baking mix.


Lifeway, a company in the United States, has developed functional dairy foods for health-conscious consumers. It produces a series of distinct probiotic products based on unique ingredients and patented formulations. The company’s main product is kefir, a milk-based cultured drink that is more nutritional than yoghurt and is a smooth, creamy soy-shake texture with a delicious blend of natural juices.

Blending traditional recipes with modern nutrition, Lifeway created SoyTreat™. This drink offers positive benefits for various health concerns dealing with the heart and digestive systems. The product combines seven active probiotic kefir cultures in a non-dairy organic soy based beverage containing at least 6.25 grams of soy protein. It is also high in calcium, vitamins and minerals.

There are seven flavours to enjoy which include Dulce de Leché, Strawberry, Coffee Latte, Apple, Peach, English Toffee and Coconut.

SoyTreat™ can be served straight out of the bottle or glass, over fruit and cereal, the base for smoothies when combined with fresh fruit in a blender, or poured over pancakes or waffles.

Stretch Island Fruit, Inc.

One of the companies at the show had an interesting product name incorporating the word “leather,” not normally a word synonymous with high quality food.

Stretch Island Organic Fruit Leather was first introduced in 1990 and since then has developed a loyal and consistent following. The fruit snack continues to improve in popularity as people become more aware and concerned about the fruit used in all snacks.

Stretch Island Original Fruit Leather is dried fruit in a bar. The products are made from pure food ingredients with no sweeteners, colours, extenders or preservatives.

The main raw material is fruit puree, prepared by washing the ripe fruit, heating if necessary to soften it, homogenising it and then screening out seeds and stems. All the ingredients are heat treated to kill harmful bacteria. The fruit is usually concentrated to a standard Brix (fruit sugar) value and either heat-packed or frozen. In addition to the puree, a small amount of lemon juice concentrate and sometimes natural flavours are added.

SuperBakes Inc (Wanda’s Nature Farm Foods)

A producer of all natural and organic foods since 1992, this company offers a variety of mixes in both retail and bulk packaging, as well as a number of frozen products.

All organic grains are produced on land where no pesticides are currently used and have not been used for at least three years. As with all organic foods, none are treated with preservatives, hormones, other synthetic chemicals or irradiation. In addition SuperBakes uses only premium organic and natural ingredients. Most of the company’s mixes can be used in bread machines and conventional ovens. It offers a variety of organic breads including: Sunflower, Sesame Poppyseed, Whole Wheat, Oregano, Garlic and Orange Cinnamon.

In addition to the breads, SuperBakes also has several “desserts” and other organic mixes. One of the desserts is an Organic Double Chocolate Cake mix. This is complemented by another dessert choice, an Organic Lemon Blueberry Muffin Mix that produces 12-2oz. muffins.

For pizza lovers the company offers an Organic Oregano and Basil Pizza Crust Mix, which will make a thick 10″ crust for your favourite organic toppings.

A third mix of note is the Organic Soft Pretzel Mix, which makes eight to 12 pretzels that would rival most European offerings. The mix contains no hydrogenated oil, cholesterol, preservatives or artificial flavours and can be made non-fat.

Green & Blacks Chocolate

It is amazing how small the world continues to get. In the article written covering BioFach 2003 held in Nuremberg, Germany, the Vivani Bio-Genuss line of organic chocolates was introduced to our readers ( members click here). The company began with conventional chocolate, which it still sells under the brand names Weinrich and Porta. It also produces Green & Black from the United Kingdom and one of the companies in Austin.

As every sweet tooth knows organic chocolate has made a tremendous leap forward in taste and quality. One of those companies leading the charge is Green & Blacks. The company has a range of 13 different chocolates ranging from bars to the distinctive gift box.

A favourite is the Chocolate Covered Almonds where the finest, sweetest almonds are toasted to perfection, rolled in cocoa powder and then covered in milk chocolate. Packaged in 110g bags, one will not be enough for those who like almonds.

In the bar category there are several unique and popular items. The first is a white chocolate using cocoa butter pressed directly from the crushed cocoa beans and combined with full cream milk and Bourbon vanilla. The bar is available in 100g and 20g sizes.

Caramel is often perceived to be too sweet. However, Green & Blacks’ recipe overcomes this problem and the solution is a caramel blended with cocoa-rich milk chocolate and a pinch of sea salt to reduce the sweetness. The bar is only available in 100g.

The hazelnut and currant chocolate bar is a balance of the sweetness of organic currants, the toasted, nutty crunch of organic hazelnuts and the rich, intense flavour of dark chocolate. It too is available in 100g bars.

For those gift-giving occasions where chocolates are the choice, Green & Blacks has several options to select from. One is the Organic Collection, consisting of 45 individually wrapped bite size pieces of dark, milk and white chocolate.

Green & Blacks also offers seven flavours of ice cream to complement its line of chocolate confectionery. The creaminess, richness and flavour of its ice cream is achieved by using a high percentage of fresh organic cream, bought directly from British farmers. This means it is very thick and, as they like to say, ” It means you have to leave it to stand for ten minutes in order to get it out of the tub – if you can wait!”

Two of the less common flavours, supported by the standard flavours of Chocolate and Vanilla, are Chocolate Orange and Vanilla Carmel Nut.

The Chocolate Orange is new and is a blend of Green & Blacks’ original smooth, dark chocolate ice cream with a hint of orange.

The other new ice cream is the Vanilla Caramel Nut. With this selection Green & Blacks’ vanilla ice cream is teamed up with caramel swirls and chopped hazelnuts. These two additions complement the vanilla ice cream without dominating its classic taste.

A booming consumer market

In closing it is fitting to review the numbers once again as the organic industry continues to drive forward.

The United States organic consumer market is over 90 million people and growing with retail sales expected to top $US20bn in the US by 2005. This represents growth of 150% between 2000 and 2005. Recent surveys also suggest almost 30% of the United States population already buys organically grown products.

Meanwhile the Canadian market for organic products represents sales of approximately CD$1bn (US$700m). Independent grocers in Canada continue to increase organic produce shelf-space by about 20% spurring the national chains to follow suit with their own organic areas and products.

The dynamic natural and organic food sectors introduce between 3,000 and 4,000 new products each year. Top consumers of organic products are between the ages of 45 and 54, the largest consumer group in North America. Of this 75% of all consumers surveyed in a Whole Foods Market nationwide survey (2002) say they would likely eat organic foods more often if a larger variety was more readily available.