When Gary Hirshberg and Alex Bogusky got together to rebrand organic and unleash some of its latent energy, sparks flew. Through a series of viral videos called “The Natural Effect” featuring a spokesman from the “False Advertising Industry,” organic sought to playfully expose all of the many ways that natural labeling falls short at the shelf. The videos were billed as a public education campaign, rather than straight marketing, and led to the cold logic of “killing natural to save organic.”
There was blood in the water already. Class-action litigation around natural labeling reached fever pitch in 2013, with successful brands like PopChips and Barbara’s feeling the “all-natural” sting of plaintiff’s attorneys. This was one more nudge that prompted the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association—already beleaguered by the whack-a-mole fundraising necessary to defeat state ballot initiatives around GMO labeling—to lobby Capitol Hill for inclusion of GMOs inside the natural definition.
This is all good drama, of course, but let’s face it. As natural products aggressively pursue new constituencies and demographics, “natural” products are a must. Organic will drop in price and increase in scope, but not enough to solve the accessibility challenges facing the U.S. and the globe. Which begs a question: Rather than kill natural, can we save it instead?
The battle over defining natural promises to be heated. Will the natural industry step up and coalesce to find the consensus necessary to keep its fate inside its own hands? Or will lobbying strategies (and dollars) from conventional CPGs steal that thunder? Will non-GMO—itself an important link in the value chain between premium-priced organic and bargain-basement conventional—surface as the default definition of natural?
What do you think? Should natural = non-GMO? This and more inside the 2015 NEXT Forecast.