It seems that Rodale, the 1930-founded publishing behemoth responsible for magazines such as Men’s Health, Prevention and Bicycling, has struck again: The company announced Monday they were adding to their long list of naturally oriented brands an e-commerce website, rodales.com, designed to sell healthy and eco-living items.
Rodale aims to provide a site that is both approachable to mainstream shoppers, as well as veteran natural consumers. Category offerings include kitchen, garden, bed and bath, personal care, apparel, accessories and fitness.
There’s no doubt that organic is a hot business to be in, as organic sales garnered $31.5 billion in 2011. But Rodale’s new website exemplifies the growing trend for natural and organic lifestyle products. “It’s time for an online store to offer one place to discover stylish, sophisticated products that also provide peace of mind,” said Maria Rodale, chairman and CEO of Rodale Inc., in a statement. “We want to help shape the future of conscious consumerism by embedding a new standard for responsibly created merchandise.”
Boasting free shipping and a user-friendly platform resembling the social networking site Pinterest, Rodale’s will sell responsibly produced products, including nonrefrigerated pantry items (jams, spices, condiments). “We have a personal relationship with every vendor we're featuring,” said buyer Mary Lugones of the 460 products. “We ensure that their ethos aligns with ours: Where was the product made? How was it made? And with what materials? This all goes back to traceability.”
Transparency is the name of the game. In order to communicate the vetting process to consumers, Rodale utilized the company’s editorial team to describe each product in a way that translates its sustainable initiatives. Every product also has a “Why we chose it” tab, which gives a quick-and-dirty reason as to its sale-worthiness. For example, a tote bag made with “sustainable vegetable fibers and other natural materials,” and bed sheets made from GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) Certified cotton.
“A lot of people in the space are small business owners, and they would never sacrifice the integrity of their ingredients to make more money. When we tell their story, and how their business practices link with our own, it helps shoppers fall in love with the product,” says Lugones. “We want the site to be beautiful, inviting and aspirational.”
Natural textiles, retooled
While organic foods, beverages, personal care items and supplements, are still top organic sellers, shoppers are increasingly seeking products that can help them live a whole organic life. Personal care products have experienced continual mindfulness in their formulations—non-GMO, non-nano, Fair Trade, USDA Organic—but it seems that eco-products are finally gaining the traction they deserve.
One area of particular emphasis? Organic fibers, a cause close to Maria Rodale’s heart, as discussed in her book Organic Manifesto (Rodale, 2010). “The book was a foray into understanding the cotton industry and what it meant to farmers and their livelihood,” explains Lugones. “Cotton depletes the soil, and is financially devastating for people who invest in it.”
Dubbed the “dirtiest crop” by the Organic Trade Association, conventionally grown cotton uses more insecticides than any other agriculture, despite comprising just 2.5 percent of the world’s cultivated land use. Plus, synthetic fertilizers wreck havoc on our ecosystem: nitrogen runoff forms aquatic dead zones in oceans and lakes, killing off fish and crustaceans.
"I think people are starting to see the value in buying organic items that touch your skin everyday," concludes Lugones. Supporting this prediction, Nutrition Business Journal forecasts that organic fiber sales will grow 12 percent between 2012 and 2013.
So should you stock organic natural-living items in your store? Is it time to jump on the natural-living bandwagon? The answer, it seems, is yes.