One of the latest trends in the marketing of food products is the use of the word “Natural”; Natural hot dogs, Natural trail mix, Natural dog food. It is an extremely intelligent marketing campaign because the image portrayed by these products is of purity, simplicity, and mirrors the image of Certified Organic foods. The problem with the Natural label is that it has no teeth, no standards to follow, no independent third party auditing that is required by being Certified Organic.
So who determines what products can and what can’t be labeled natural? The product company.
We as consumers assume that a product labeled natural would be healthy, but what is and what isn’t healthy is a matter of debate; not so much in the area of nutrients (Vitamins/Minerals), but areas such as pesticides and genetically modified foods.
Would you consider your natural trail mix that doesn’t have any added preservatives, but yet is grown in a conventional system where pesticides are used, natural? How about a corn snack made with genetically modified corn? I certainly wouldn’t, but companies can and do get away with what I view as deception.
Imagine McDonalds getting the image and reputation of a fine French restaurant. This is what Natural is getting.
Companies enjoy the freedom of following no regulations, no additional inspection and certification fees, yet gain all of the image benefits of being Certified Organic. From a business standpoint, this is a beautiful place to be, but how about from an ethics and moral standpoint? Does ethics and morals have anyplace in business anymore?
As the growth of natural food continue to rise faster than organic food, it makes me wonder if being Certified Organic will lose it’s niche. It will be an interesting next few years to watch; I predicted a future monumental clash between GMO’s and organic, but I never thought that a single word, and all it implies, could potentially bring down an industry.