How good is good enough in the natural products industry?

How good is good enough in the natural products industry?

You know the phrase "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good"? I believe this should be the anthem of the natural products industry, and it has never been more clearly illustrated than in the past few days.

In every industry there are outliers: companies whose ethics and business practices go above and beyond the call of duty for people, the planet and communities. And on the other hand, companies that wish they could go somewhere, if only they had the money. In the natural products industry, there's a greater likelihood that these two sets of outliers both start with the same good intention.

When it's time to turn intention into reality, the path may involve concessions. A prime example: budget limitations.

We receive a lot of sample products in the mail, which adds up to a lot of packing peanuts (we reuse them in the mail room for our own shipments.) Recently, Garlic Clove Foods sent us a package of their ancient grain pilafs, along with a note that the packing peanuts dissolved in water. A simple touch that's better for the environment—and no doubt a little more expensive for the company.

Does this discount the rest of the packages we receive without dissolvable packing peanuts? No. In this case, one company chose packing peanuts as a priority, whereas perhaps another company offsets their carbon shipping footprint through

Here's another example: I recently wrote about how the NuVal Nutritional Scoring System went nationwide with its recent addition into King Soopers and City Markets stores. In a comment, Natural Grocers took me to task for not delving deeper into the science behind NuVal, writing:

"We find it odd that New Hope has not taken NuVal to task for completely overlooking the problem of artificial ingredients. This is compounded by the ubiquitous advertising that urges listeners with the pitch, 'Now you don't have to read the ingredients, because NuVal has done it for you.' That, friends, is a frightening thought."

My article focused on how organic fits into NuVal (it doesn't) and if natural retailers should be worried that the scores would replace customer service (it won't), so I didn't incorporate artificial ingredients (but perhaps should have.) And I agree that it is frightening that one number could replace the importance of reading ingredients labels. However: "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."

NuVal, I think, isn't for natural shoppers. It's for the conventional shoppers who don't read ingredients labels anyway. And if one number can steer them away from a sugary cereal toward one that's higher in fiber, that's an enormous springboard for shifting food habits nationwide.

This whole health and wellness and being good to the environment thing is difficult. But I'm a firm believer that every baby step industry makes, as long as it is filled with good intention, is good enough.

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