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Candy and snack brands clash over hydroponics organic certification

Douglas Yu

By Douglas Yu+

22-Dec-2016
Last updated on 23-Dec-2016 at 12:29 GMT2016-12-23T12:29:41Z

Hydroponic is a water-based model of cultivation. Pic: ©iStock/RoseNoom
Hydroponic is a water-based model of cultivation. Pic: ©iStock/RoseNoom

CEOs of organic candy and snack brands, including Pure Growth Organic, iWon Organics and Torie & Howard, have voiced their opinions on whether hydroponically-grown foods should be certified as organic.

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) recently pushed back the date in making those produce certified, since the water-based model of cultivation has caused controversy among the US pubic.

The NOSB is a federal advisory committee whose 15 members represent the entire organic community, according to USDA’s website.

Co-founder and president of Pure Growth Organic , Sabrina Peterson, previously told BakeryandSnacks she thinks “there is a lot of good in hydroponics, as long as the process yields the same organic qualities of typical organic ingredients, is held to the same nutritional standards and allows organic ingredients to be more prevalent and widely available.”

“[Hydroponics] would create a larger supply of organic ingredients, which would, in turn, lower the cost and make organic more accessible. It could also create a plethora of new jobs among farmers who may not necessarily have access to the land to grow organic.”

Currently, organic hydroponic systems are allowed under the organic regulations if they comply with the USDA's organic requirements, according to a department spokesperson.

“USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is awaiting recommendations from the NOSB on how organic standards align or don’t align with hydroponic, aquaponic and bioponic production systems," he said.

“The USDA will study NOSB’s recommendations and possible regulatory action addressing these production systems.”

Complex issue

Connecticut-based organic candy brand, Torie & Howard, shied away from commenting on the hydroponic issue, saying that it is a complex issue.

 

Before Torie Burke started the confectionery business with her partner, Howard Slatkin, she attended an industry trade show and found there was plenty of white space to develop healthful organic candies.

Now, five years into business, Torie & Howard has grown more than three times from 2015 to 2016 compared to the previous period, and will be launching a new trial size bag of organic Chewie Fruities candy at the 2017 Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco.

Burke explained that being organic means traceability, cleaner ingredients, cleaner soils that can deliver crops with higher antioxidants and sustainable farming.

“There are two categories of organic certification that can use the USDA seal, 100% and 95%,” she said.

“While the total percentage of organic ingredients in our products is higher than 95% organic, our products are assigned to the 95% organic category because a small amount of our ingredients cannot be purchased in the organic form.

“Our products are certified [by Oregon Tilth] to the National Organic Program, which is the US standard for organics and is under the USDA,” Burke added. “All of the efforts we make to remain an organic company are well worth it.”

Straight from the earth

Plant-based protein snack startup iWon Organics said the decision of whether hydroponically-grown foods should be certified as organic or not will not affect its business.

But, the company’s CEO, Mark Samuel, believes that organic means coming straight from the earth, without any interruption whatsoever.

 

“It has a really simple life cycle,” he said. “Everyone benefits from organic foods. From the consumer who would know they’re eating high quality, real ingredients, to the farmers or those working to produce those ingredients.

“The entire cycle from growing to consuming is real and something to feel good about.”

Samuel said his company has not encountered many challenges as he knows where the ingredients are coming from.

“We only buy from well-known suppliers who have experience in organic certified products. It makes the cycle from formulation to certification that much faster,” he said.

iWon Organics, which is certified by Quality Assurance International, contain 100% organic ingredients, according to the company. It plans on extending its reach and will be distributing its products to an additional 280 Harmons Grocery and Bed Bath & Beyond stores in January.

“We'll be in more than 1,000 US doors with hundreds more abroad, all within eight months of launching our brand this year,” Samuel told BakeryandSnacks. “We project to have 300% or more growth next year alone.”

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