Organic for all ages

by Allison Sebolt
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With some consumers turning to organic foods and beverages for their perceived wholesomeness, there is a growing market for organic products specifically designed for children.

Seth Goldman, founder and chief executive officer of Honest Tea, Bethesda, Md., said the top reason people, and women specifically, begin to purchase organic products is because they plan to have children. He said the decision to buy organic out of concern for what ingredients and chemicals are going into the body marks a shift in attitude that previously prevailed, where consumers chose organics out of concern for the environment.

In response to this attitude, companies have introduced an increasing number of organic products designed to meet the needs of everyone from fussy babies to finicky teenagers. While the science connecting health with the consumption of organic foods is anything but conclusive, consumer perceptions have been driving demand.

"Parents are increasingly aware of the effects of pesticides, toxins and residues in their children’s foods … Parents are looking for pure and healthier alternatives for their children," said Shazi Visram, c.e.o. of HappyBaby, Brooklyn, N.Y.

HappyBaby offers several product lines, including HappyBaby, which has products in the consistencies of Simple Puree, Smooth Combos, and Sorta Chunky; and HappyBellies, which offers organic brown rice cereal, organic oatmeal cereal and organic multi-grain cereal. HappyBaby also recently launched HappyBites, a line of meals for toddlers along with sauces to make eating more fun.

Ms. Visram said while some meals on the market for children are processed and lack nutrition in formulation, HappyBites helps meet a need for a more nutritious and organic alternative.

Ms. Visram said organic baby food products that are convenient are especially successful because they fulfill two needs — offering a quality product and giving parents an alternative to making the products themselves.

Mintel, Chicago, found overall sales in the baby food segment declined in the 2005-07 period, with the largest brands, Gerber and Beech-Nut, experiencing decreased sales. Over the same period sales of Earth’s Best, an organic baby food line, increased. According to Mintel’s Global New Products Database, 67 new organic baby food products were introduced in the United States in 2007, up from 61 in 2006 and 35 in 2005.

Mr. Goldman’s company launched its Honest Kids line about a year ago after his 12-year-old son asked him why his company made so many healthy drinks for adults while he was still taking sugary drinks to school. As a result, he said the product line is not only about being organic, but also about being healthier with a better nutrition profile.

Honest Kids products are organic and natural and come in three varieties: Berry Berry Good Lemonade, Goodness Grapeness and Tropical Tango Punch.

Mr. Goldman said he would like to move the Honest Kids line to food service as well. According to Mintel, 407 new organic beverage products were introduced for all age groups in 2007, up from 287 in 2006.

If it is to succeed, an organic product must taste good and have accessible packaging if it is to appeal to children, Mr. Goldman said, adding that packaging is often a stumbling block for organic processors as they simply overlook it and don’t focus on the consumer when designing it. He said Honest Kids’ packaging doesn’t limit the age group it appeals to and is inviting, capturing the interest of children.

Despite the established demand for nutritious well-balanced organic products for children, there also are offerings to meet a child’s desire to indulge.

Pure Fun Confections, Mahwah, N.J., has a line of candy that is organic, Fair Trade, kosher and vegan that includes lollipops, candy canes, cotton candy and hard candy. The company said it realizes children have a natural attraction to candy and believes parents will begin choosing candy made from healthier ingredients. Mintel said there were 100 new confectionery products introduced in 2007 for all ages, up from 79 in 2006 and 63 in 2005.

Other child-friendly products with organic positioning on the market include Honey Graham Teddy Bear Cookies from Wild Harvest Organic; new cereal varieties from Nature’s Path Organic’s EnviroKidz line; crackers and cookies from Eco-Plant, a brand of Eco-Heaven L.L.C.; cereal bunny varieties from Annie’s Homegrown, Napa, Calif.; Clif Kid from Clif Bar & Co., Berkeley, Calif.; and Safari Sensations Kangaroo Cashew Packs in the Good Sense snack line from Waymouth Farms, Inc., New Hope, Minn.

"(Organic) is not a fad, it’s a deep-seated trend," Mr. Goldman said. "I can’t imagine any scenario where people are going to say all of the sudden, ‘I’m less interested in understanding where my food comes from and how it’s made.’"

This article can also be found in the digital edition of Food Business News, May 27, 2008, starting on Page 46. Click
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