Natural Foods Merchandiser

Retailers, Producers Celebrate Organic and Sustainable Food

A pair of events scheduled for the next several weeks could bring more attention to the natural and organics food industry, and the companies that support it.

Beginning with International Kitchen Garden Day on Aug. 22, organizers hope to celebrate organic, homegrown foods. The idea is to promote these foods' role in bringing about a fairer, more sustainable food system, and to encourage people to explore local food options in their areas, according to the nonprofit group Kitchen Gardeners International. The group suggests organizing activities such as a local agriculture potluck, or a benefit for a local food or gardening charity.

In October, the industry can help celebrate Fair Trade Month, organized by TransFair USA, the only fair-trade certifier in the United States. The group's aim is to improve the quality of life for farmers in Latin America, Africa and Asia. By assuring farmers a fair price for their specialty foods such as coffee and chocolate, they have access to improved nutrition, health care, housing and education.

Events planned for Fair Trade Month include high-profile tasting events in several U.S. cities; Fair Trade farmers touring supermarkets in several regions to meet with store customers and employees, as well as with church and community groups. More than 20,000 food retailers and restaurants already offer fair trade-certified products, and sold $208 million of them in 2003.

"We have many retailers participating ? and we have over 8,000 new retail outlets that began selling fair-trade certified [products] in 2003 and 2004," said Haven Bourque, a spokeswoman for TransFair USA. "Wegmans, PCC, Wild Oats and Andronico's are a few that are more involved," she said. PCC will be highlighting a number of fair-trade teas, including Choice Organic, Honest Tea and Traditional Medicinals, as well as fair trade chocolates produced in Oregon, including Dagoba and Endangered Species. "I know they're going to be running special promotions and making a big deal out of Fair Trade Month." Bourque also said participating retailers would be conducting cross-product promotions and "talking about what fair trade means and what products are carrying the label."

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