In some ways, the entire nutrition industry can be described as a “value-add” conceit. Of course, this is hardly the case in the third world, but for the developed world, very often what passes for an innovative product is the functional ingredient inside. Which is to say, vitamin fortification or botanically boosted or some hip and trendy commodity alternative like what acai is to blueberries or mangosteen is to tomato juice.
Layered on top of this is the post-modern dilemma that comes from sourcing inexpensive ingredients from, say, China, against the costs that must be borne in the ways of traceability—just in case!
And layered again on top of this is the fundamental way in which social media influences business decisions. That can be summed up in the single word: transparency.
3 new business buzzwords
Traceability. Transparency. Sustainability. These are the new business buzzwords—but unlike so many buzzwords, these words mean business.
I recently got turned on to the Sustainable Foods Summit, being held in San Francisco, Jan. 17 to 18. These three buzzwords will be dissected, with opportunities presented as to sustainable ingredient sourcing, eco-labels and the de-commoditization of food ingredients through sustainable practices such as Fair Trade, organic and other standards.
The most obvious example is coffee, the second-largest traded commodity in the world, according to event organizer Organic Monitor. Other low-hanging fruit, so to speak, include cocoa, vanilla and sugar.
Maybe my favorite is acai. The boys at Sambazon now source organic acai berry products from more than 10,000 family farmers—no typo on that number—in the Amazon.
Staying power of sustainability
Cynics in the business world might still scoff at sustainable practices as being so much ecological and ethical blather that does not relate to the bottom line. I don’t think so. Rather, this is how all businesses need to view what they do.
Converting existing supply chains to organic, fair trade and other sustainable ingredients can be a lengthy and sometimes complex process. But sustainable ingredients can provide traceability and transparency. Best of all, not only are such practices clear wins for the farmers who grow the ingredients, they are also wins for the marketers and manufacturers of finished products that capitalize on the value-add.