Marketing regenerative: How three ROC brands sell agriculture

As regenerative agriculture gains purchase across the natural and organic products marketplace, brands within the Regenerative Organic Certified umbrella are engaging with especially vigorous marketing.

Douglas Brown, Senior Retail Reporter

April 30, 2024

8 Min Read
Lundberg Family Farms

The national organic program addresses a welter of environmental issues, from soil health to waterway vitality and clean air. But soon after its launch in 1994, consumers latched onto just one of its many provisions—a ban on the use of dangerous pesticides and herbicides. Despite the standard’s many rules for bringing about sustainable agricultural stewardship, consumers fixed on the program’s main good-for-me standard. And their enthusiasm for organic’s health advantages has led to 30 years of flourishing for the unique standard.

Like organic, regenerative agriculture also offers farmers paths toward healing soil and planet through farming. But to date it lacks a powerful selling point for human health, beyond how it might mitigate effects of climate change. Some stakeholders are exploring links between regenerative farming and nutrient density, and early data suggest connections between the two. But the potential scope of that health benefit remains unclear.

As a result, savvy marketing and education are vital. As regenerative doesn’t lend itself to simple slogans, all stakeholders, from farmers to brands to retailers, must figure out ways to tell the complex story in easy-to-digest ways for consumers.

At the same time, they must contend with a flood of greenwashing. Any company can use the word regenerative, even if the company has nothing to do with helping to bring about soil improvement and environmental vigor. Could an oil and gas company call its drilling regenerative? Absolutely.

The market today, however, supports a range of third-party-backed regenerative standards. And consumer interest is growing. According to Google Trends, the term “regenerative agriculture” is experiencing more searches today than ever before. And among sustainability certifications, from Fair Trade to B Corp and plenty of others, Certified Regenerative Organic (ROC) is leading in sales growth, according to The Food Institute.

Even as ROC—which is built on a foundation of organic—emerges as a leader among certifications, the nonprofit behind it, the Regenerative Organic Alliance (ROA), is just now beginning to assemble a task force among its members to explore best practices for marketing, said ROA executive director Elizabeth Whitlow.

“We are creating a toolkit or blueprint for why all of the principles of ROC matter,” Whitlow said. “The big focus now will be addressing retailers and consumers. Early on, it was about farmers, and then it was about brands and getting them onboarded and engaged.”

While messaging surrounding regenerative agriculture remains nascent and rapidly evolving, some brands and leaders in the space serve as especially strong ambassadors for the movement. Their educational outreach and marketing is helping to shepherd new consumers into the regenerative fold, and to contribute toward more widespread understanding about what regenerative agriculture is all about.

“One good example I’m seeing is the work Vital Farms is doing telling their regenerative story,” said Kristine Root, chief marketing officer for the regenerative agriculture certification program Regenified. “Another one, and I never would have guessed it, is Maker’s Mark bourbon. It has made a major commitment to educating farmers they are buying grains from to transition to regenerative agriculture.”

Root advised regenerative brands to “take pieces from these complex regenerative narratives to build your stories. This is a huge opportunity for brands.

While the movement supports a number of certifications, some of the most prominent brand advocates for regenerative, for now, enjoy ROC status.

Lundberg Family Farms


Lundberg Family Farms began engaging extensively with regenerative agriculture messaging after it gained its first ROC award in the spring of 2023. The company aims to offer all of its rice that now is organic as ROC by 2027.

One centerpiece to Lundberg’s marketing and educational efforts is its “Ducking Good Rice” campaign, which showcases how the fourth-generation farm and brand leans into regenerative agriculture through waterfowl—including ducks.

Lundberg’s chief storyteller and fourth-generation farmer Brita Lundberg said ducks are key to Lundberg’s regenerative efforts—so vital, in fact, that for more than three decades Lundberg has rescued about 30,000 duck eggs a year from its rice fields. The company sends the eggs to a hatchery, which delivers the ducks into the world and sets them free.

Why do ducks matter to a rice farm?Their activity in the fields helps prepare them for planting, while also fertilizing the fields. Incorporating livestock into agriculture is one of the pillars of regenerative agriculture. In addition, promoting biodiversity in general figures into regenerative agriculture.

The massive, annual egg-rescuing effort on the part of Lundberg dwells at the heart of its current regenerative messaging. The company launched its “Ducking Good Rice” campaign on Earth Day 2023, with a full-page ad in the New York Times, billboards across the country and heavy social media engagement. Part of the campaign served as a puckish protest against Earth Day, the point being every day should be Earth Day. That campaign continues across 2024.

“We knew if we talked about things like soil health metrics, consumers eyes would glaze over, or they wouldn’t look at the ad at all. But everyone can relate to a duckling,” said Lundberg. “If we care this much about ducks, think about how much we care about rice. That’s the story of regenerative agriculture in general. We care about the ecosystems around our fields. The community we are a part of. The team members who make it all possible. And the soil we stand on.”

The comprehensive campaign, complete with actors in duck suits engaging with consumers, “speaks to the authenticity of our farming practices and philosophy. I encourage other regenerative brands to think about what makes their operation unique. There’s power in specificity. Stories about real people doing real things are important. We are a real family doing what we say we are doing.”

Patagonia Provisions


Most consumers know Patagonia for its hoodies, hats, hiking shorts and puffy jackets. But more and more people are beginning to recognize the company for its fusilli pasta and cheddar cheese crackers, and for its tins of mussels and sockeye salmon. The company’s food business, Patagonia Provisions, celebrates regenerative agriculture through its growing list of products awarded with ROC status. Patagonia was one of the founding members of the ROA.

For Patagonia Provisions’ general manager, Paul Lightfoot, regenerative agriculture’s complexities serve as the engine behind its storytelling advantages. Instead of it demanding too much from marketers, the approach toward agriculture offers people myriad opportunities to tell individual parts of each brand’s or farm’s regenerative journey.

“Most consumers now, and it wasn’t like this even five years ago, realize they are impacted by the climate crisis. There’s this visceral sense that things are going wrong for humanity,” he said. “But regenerative agriculture is an answer. And the romance of the copy dwells on the details, the nitty gritty. That’s how we are marketing this.” And much of Patagonia’s messaging gets broadcasted on its packaging.

Lightfoot described Patagonia as a “storytelling company,” one that enjoy a long history of connecting with consumers over shared environmental values. Lightfoot said the company constantly collaborates with other brands in the ROC tent on things like marketing, storytelling strategies and more.

“I give my team carte blanche to spend time talking with other ROC brands,” he said. “Together, we are not in the business to sell more units. We are in business to do something broader.”

He said that despite organic’s big head start on ROC, in the end ROC will surpass USDA organic as the most important and best-understood certification in the food industry.

“We’ve barely started to create recognition of ROC in the minds of consumers. It’s growing quickly, but from a small base,” he said. “And I think regenerative organic will pull the organic goose up the mountain. We’ll see more growth in organic due to ROC, and we will take more market share than organic ever did.”



SIMPLi, a brand selling grains, legumes, oils, spices and more, revolves much of its messaging around its regenerative roots. Head to the website and witness a home page dominated by regenerative messaging. Regenerative content shares at least equal space with recipes and food shots on the brand’s Instagram feed. The brand’s regenerative bona fides—it is ROC—emblazon both the front and back of packaging, with editorial content educating about regenerative agriculture, along with the ROC seal.

As ROC includes provisions for worker welfare, SIMPLi’s messaging includes quite a bit about people, especially those from indigenous communities, as well as soil and the environment.

It may represent the most regenerative-focused brand in the industry today.

“When we talk about how every single one of our products starts as a relationship with a farmer, it makes our customers feel empowered that their purchases support smallholder farmers around the world,” said co-founder Matt Cohen. “The human connection we’re building between farmers and customers is really powerful.”

Is it working? SIMPLi today is widely available on retail shelves, from Whole Foods Market and Sprouts to a plethora of independent natural grocers. While making direct connections between messaging and sales is challenging, SIMPLi has surveyed customers and learned that about half reported they bought SIMPLi products due to its regenerative foundation. In addition, one out of three respondents said they hadn’t heard of ROC prior to buying SIMPLi, and wanted to learn more.

Cohen said that SIMPLi speaks to a “new era of consumers” with expanding buying power who assess factors like where ingredients in their food comes from, how they’re grown and the people behind the ingredients in their purchasing decisions. Transparency rules for these consumers, and SIMPLi tailors its regenerative messaging to their concerns and desires.

The brand, he said, devotes significant resources toward “being intentional about showing consumers what’s in it for them and for our planet,” Cohen said. “These larger shifts in consumer awareness of the problems regenerative can solve, from growing more nutrient-dense food to building soil that’s more resilient and can be a part of the climate solution, are allowing us to create the connection faster.”

About the Author(s)

Douglas Brown

Senior Retail Reporter, New Hope Network

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