Post Categories: February 2014

Trending Tastes: Going Back to Nature with Non-GMOs

Sometimes what’s not in a product counts just as much as what is.

trending-picThis fact is front and center in the current debate about GMOs versus non-GMOs. In case you’re not familiar, GMOs are foods and ingredients whose DNA has been modified in a lab at some point, such as corn grown from seeds implanted with a gene that makes them more resistant to disease. On the flipside, non-GMOs haven’t had their DNA altered in a lab. Though many food scientists insist there is nothing harmful about GMOs, market research firm The Hartman Group reports that an increasing number of consumers are nonetheless becoming wary of them and seeking out what they see as more natural options.

Fortunately for these consumers, numerous retailers and CPGs have stepped up to cater to this growing demand for non-GMOs—a trend that shows no signs of slowing. According to Packaged Facts, sales of non-GMO foods and beverages are predicted to increase by nearly 13 percent each year for the next 5 years, representing up to a $264 billion industry by 2017.

Ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s was an early leader in the race to cater to consumers seeking non-GMOs. In February of 2013, Ben & Jerry’s announced that while 80 percent of its ingredients were already non-GMO, it would begin the process of converting all ingredients to come from non-GMO sources. By the end of 2013, 14 of its flavors were already labeled 100 percent GMO-free, and the company reports its remaining flavors are on track to be fully non-GMO by mid-2014.

On the heels of Ben & Jerry’s announcement, natural foods retailer Whole Foods announced it would require all products sold in its stores—from fresh meats to canned goods to beauty care items—to be clearly labeled if they contain GMO ingredients (or in the case of meat and dairy, if the animals were given GMO feed). Whole Foods has given its suppliers until 2018 to make the change, but has already begun to push out some GMO products in favor of non-GMO options. For example, in December, the retailer announced it would stop carrying Chobani® yogurt in early 2014, in large part because the manufacturer could not provide a non-GMO alternative, reports the Wall Street Journal. But the dairy case won’t be bare at Whole Foods, as other yogurt producers such as Stonyfield Farm and Wallaby step in to fill the void with their non-GMO options.

Most recently, Cheerios (made by General Mills) jumped on the non-GMO bandwagon when it announced in January that it had removed GMO ingredients from its original Cheerios® cereal.

Though General Mills has publically stated it does not believe GMOs are harmful, in a press release, its Vice President of Global Communications Tom Forsythe said the change to Cheerios was made because “We think consumers may embrace it. General Mills offers [non-GMO] choices in most of our major categories in the U.S., and now we can say the same about the ingredients in original Cheerios.”

Other companies stepping up to offer non-GMO alternatives include Annie’s Naturals, Blue Diamond Almonds, Earthbound Farm, Fresh & Easy, Kashi, Meijer, Trader Joe’s and more.