'Organic Oscars' honor organic industry's best at Expo West

Hundreds gathered to honor eight organic leaders from academics to brands to retailers with the first “Organic Oscars” awards. See who won.

March 20, 2024

12 Min Read
Jennifer Garner, co-founder of Once Upon a Farm, and Gary Hirshberg, co-founder of Stonyfield Farm, emceed the awards ceremony on March 13, 2024.
Bryan Beasley Photography

Hosted by The Organic Center and Organic Voices, “An Organic Night Out” showcased honorees in eight categories—all nominated and chosen by their peers.

Jennifer Garner, an award-winning actress, philanthropist and co-founder of children's nutrition company Once Upon a Farm, and Gary Hirshberg, organic advocate and co-founder of organic dairy company Stonyfield Farm, emceed the awards ceremony on March 13 as part of Natural Products Expo West 2024. 

More than 600 attendees celebrated the outstanding successes of individuals and businesses in communicating the benefits of organic, as well as the work of groundbreaking organic researchers.

“All of these organic leaders are so inspiring, and I'm honored to be part of this incredible celebration that recognizes the people and brands who are making the health of our families and planet their top priority,” Garner said. “There is so much good work being done in organic, and events like this will help the industry grow. We want all families everywhere to be able to have the healthy choice of organic.”

Hirshberg added, “The organic community whole-heartedly congratulates these well-deserved winners of our ‘Organic Oscars.’ These honorees are truly organic game changers who are making a real difference in helping consumers understand the importance of choosing organic.”

Related:The 2024 NEXTY Award Winners

Each winner received a trophy celebrating their achievements. Credit: Bryan Beasley Photography

Company of the Year

Organically Grown Company

This award recognizes the company which has done the most to advance interest, awareness, sales and support of certified organic products. The award went to Organically Grown Company, a company that has put organic front and center and has championed organic agriculture for almost 50 years. 

Organically Grown Company (OGC) is the largest fresh produce wholesaler and distributor in the nation dedicated to organic. Founded in 1978 in Oregon, the mission of OGC from its start has been to grow the organic agriculture movement. The company today works with more than 350 vendors, representing 1,000 organic farms.

In 2018, it switched its ownership model to a purpose trust, which allows the company to reach beyond being just a produce company, and to be even greater advocates and stewards of the movement. In 2023, the company launched its “Organic is the Answer” campaign which provides science-supported facts and resources to help educate shoppers and retailers about organic. 

“We're thrilled and humbled to win this award. At Organically Grown Company, we're not just playing by the rules; we're rewriting them. From shaking up the status quo with our advocacy to spreading the organic message through our 'Organic is the Answer' campaign, we're rebels with a cause,” said Brenna Davis, CEO of Organically Grown Company. “Our hearts are full of gratitude for everyone who is a part of the organic trade—especially our coworkers, growers, investors and community.” 

Related:These 8 brands won the People's Choice and Editors' Choice NEXTY Awards

Most Impactful Research Finding

University of Wisconsin (Madison) and CROPP/Organic Valley

This award recognizes the organic research result or finding that most excites and motivates consumers, retailers, food service and restaurateurs to choose organic. The award recognized the work between researchers at the University of Wisconsin/Madison and Organic Valley/CROPP showing small organic dairy farms, which focus on grazing and organic production techniques, create significantly lower levels, 24% lower, of greenhouse gas emissions than conventional dairy systems. 

The researchers unveiled a dairy lifecycle assessment conducted on Organic Valley farms to estimate the environmental indicators of organic dairy systems in the U.S. and evaluate alternative management practices and methodological decisions. The research used a breakthrough methodology that included accounting for the carbon sequestration benefit of grazed pastures, conducting a first-of-its-kind study in the U.S. that showed the positive climate results of cows spending time out on pasture. Its methodologies can be used not only in organic but on all dairy farms. 

“The role of organic agriculture is fundamental to achieve a more sustainable economy. Our study quantifies the carbon footprint, among other environmental impacts, of organic dairy farms in the U.S. and identifies opportunities to mitigate these impacts,” said project lead Horacio Aguirre-Villegas, a scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who holds a doctorate in biological systems engineering from the same university. “The results from this research can inform sustainable agriculture goals, and we hope that it sets the basis to continue working with the industry in supporting the adoption of sustainable management practices.”

Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year

Painterland Sisters

This award honors a new business of 5 years or less that has made significant strides in revenue growth, exposure, innovation or market penetration while leading with clear messaging about the benefits of organic. The award went to sisters and co-founders, Stephanie and Hayley Painter, who launched Painterland Sisters, an organic skyr yogurt company, in 2022.

Fourth-generation farmers on their family’s organic dairy and crop farm, Painterland Farms, in northern Pennsylvania, the sisters have succeeded in not only sustaining their family’s organic dairy farm, but also others in the area. Painterland Sisters is now one of the fastest-growing yogurt brands in the natural grocery channel. Within the first full calendar year of business (2023), Painterland Sisters saw explosive growth from $750,000 to $4 million in sales, and its products are now in more than 2,000 stores across 49 states. 

“We are thrilled and honored to have been selected as the Emerging Organic Entrepreneur of the Year. As sisters and co-founders, being able to represent women, farmers and entrepreneurs everywhere is truly an honor. Here's to continuing our mission through organic regenerative practices that help support Mother Earth for generations to come,” said Stephanie Painter and Hayley Painter. 

Best New Food or Beverage

Patagonia Provisions Kernza Beer

This honor goes to the organic product delivering real excitement and novelty to the market and creating the most positive impression of Organic ‘goodness’. This year’s honoree is Patagonia Provisions Kernza Beer, a new lager-type beer made with Regenerative Organic Certified Kernza, a deeply rooted perennial grain that requires minimal tilling, helps fight climate change and has the potential to move the beer industry to a more regenerative future. 

Patagonia Provisions in 2023 introduced its new brewery partnership program in which 11 partner breweries nationwide released new beers, each brewed with the organic Kernza grain. The inaugural group of breweries each produced an original easy-drinking Kernza lager, cobranded with Patagonia, brewed with regionally sourced organic ingredients, and sold in their local taprooms. The program then expanded into retail stores, with several breweries canning their beers for regional distribution. The Kernza in these beers is sourced from A-Frame Farm, a 1,200-acre organic certified farm in Madison, Minnesota. 

“We’re honored to accept this award from The Organic Center and Organic Voices,” said Paul Lightfoot, general manager of Patagonia Provisions. “These organizations are our partners in championing Regenerative Organic Certification. At Patagonia Provisions, we are committed to organics and the regenerative agricultural movement. Thanks for this recognition; it energizes our mission to create products that truly make a difference in our world.”

Best New Non-Food Product

Naturepedic Concerto Organic Pillow Top Mattress

This award honors the dietary supplement, personal care, textile, pet food or other non-food item that delivers real excitement and novelty to the market, and that creates the most positive impression of organic “goodness.”  The winner is Naturepedic’s Concerto Organic Pillow Top Mattress, a new organic mattress whose innovative design not only addresses different sleep preferences but upholds the highest standards of organic at a value cost. 

The Concerto has a three-tiered design, with individually wrapped encased coils at its core, manufactured in-house without toxic off-gassing chemicals. Above the coil layer is an exclusive layer of high-density micro-coils, and topping it off is a layer of GOTS-approved latex derived from the sap of the rubber tree. The mattress uses breathable GOTS-certified organic cotton and moisture-wicking GOTS-certified organic wool, with naturally cooling organic materials in every layer of the Concerto. The mattress is made without flame retardants, polyurethane foam, glues, adhesives, harmful VOCs and other questionable materials, ensuring a safer and healthier sleeping environment. 

“Naturepedic is thrilled that our Concerto Organic Pillow Top Mattress has been honored with an Organic Excellence Award,” said Barry Cik, Naturepedic founder, CEO and technical director. “The organic movement is centered on healthier people and planet and this award helps shine a light on why mattresses, which conventionally contain chemical flame retardants, pesticides, formaldehyde and a whole slew of toxic chemicals, are a vital part of this critical push.”


Best Organic Messaging

Organic Valley

This award recognizes the best marketing or communications messaging that excites consumers about the benefits of organic in terms of human health, animal welfare, climate and the environment. The winner is Organic Valley for its impactful “Protecting Where Your Food Comes From” campaign, which shared with the world how organic, planet-friendly farms are good for people, animals and the earth.

Organic Valley kicked off the national campaign with a trip to Climate Week in New York City in September, where the company brought the small organic farm to the big city. It built a makeshift barn, brought in animal topiaries, a tractor and more to Rockefeller Center. Organic Valley farmers from 28 family farms featured in the campaign where there to talk about their commitment to organic, earth and animals. On National Farmers Day, Organic Valley farmers shared messages straight from the farm during a 12-hour YouTube livestream. Along with curious consumers, at least 3,500 students from 200 classrooms across the nation tuned in to the livestream. The messaging also expanded to key markets across the country through advertisements and farmer introductions at retail sites, the creation of T-shirts and other gear aligning with the campaign and a special video. The first month of the campaign reached over 3 million people on social media. 

“Receiving this award is incredibly gratifying because Protecting Where Your Food Comes From isn’t just a marketing campaign. This is a rallying cry for organic brands, the people who love those brands, the retailers who put them on shelves, the regulators and food policy experts, and the farmers who make it all possible to work together to bring healthy, nutrient-dense organic food on store shelves,” said Jaclyn Cardin, chief brand officer of Organic Valley. “Our ability to protect the future of food comes down to our ability to unite as an industry to nurture the organic movement and uphold the sustainability of small organic family farms as if the future is depending on us to get this right. Because it is.” 

Best Retailer Activation

Good Earth Natural Foods

This award honors the most creative and effective organic in-store or digital communication that conveys news about organic or reasons to buy organic that educate and motivate today’s consumer. This year’s winner is Good Earth Natural Foods, the venerable organic food store founded in Marin County in California in 1969 with a dream of offering the community the highest quality organic food.

Since its founding, Good Earth Natural Foods has made organic the cornerstone of its product standards. The store has steadily educated its customers about the benefits of organic over the years through in-store signage, promotion, special offers and other shopper-friendly activities.

It promotes their holiday offerings through an “organic menu,” puts together organic cheese boards for its shoppers and helps them choose the best organic wines. Its staff is schooled on organic and is ready to answer any questions from customers. An informative on-line newsletter from the store features organic recipes, along with the latest news on organic.

“It is an absolute honor to receive the award for Best Organic Retailer Activation, and to spend the evening learning and celebrating with our peers in the industry,” said Al Baylacq, owner at Good Earth. “For over 50 years, Good Earth has made it our mission to advocate for organic, and after Organic Night Out, we find ourselves more inspired than ever to take this work further.”

Best PR or Social Media Campaign

Lundberg Family Farm

This award is for the year’s most inventive and attention-grabbing public relations or social media campaign that shines a positive light on the benefits of organic, breaks through the noise, and leaves consumers feeling inspired about organic. The winner is Lundberg Family Farm for its original and attention-grabbing Ducking Good Rice campaign.

Lundberg Family Farms launched its Ducking Good Rice campaign in 2023 to spotlight how the 86-year-old rice brand’s efforts to save baby ducks are exemplary of the brand’s organic farming practices that care for the land and the creatures who live on it. The campaign used print, digital and broadcast ads, with its launch a full-page ad in The New York Times just before Earth Day: “Every Ducking Day is Earth Day.” The backdrop for this campaign is Lundberg’s yearly practice of flooding a portion of its fields to provide habitat for winter fowl, and its year-round practice of saving any duck eggs found in its fields. 

“We’re honored and humbled to be recognized for our Ducking Good Rice campaign. I wish my grandparents were here to see it,” said Brita Lundberg, fourth-generation farmer and the company’s communications manager.

“I’m not sure they would approve of the ‘fowl’ language. But the heart behind this campaign? That’s something I think they would appreciate. Because rescuing ducklings isn’t just adorable—it’s also representative of our commitment to organic farming practices that care for the land and the creatures who live on it. And if we care this much about ducks, imagine how much we care about our rice.” 

Biggest fundraising event

The occasion is the single biggest fundraising event for The Organic Center and Organic Voices, both nonprofit organizations that work on important research, education and communication with the organic industry and with consumers.  

“The growth of organic doesn't happen in a vacuum; it takes the commitment and hard work of organic farmers, businesses and researchers to advance organic.” said Amber Sciligo, who has a doctorate in biology and serves as director of science programs for The Organic Center. “We are thrilled to celebrate these organic champions who are doing so much to improve the health of our food and of our planet, and we are grateful and thankful for the incredible support for organic that this evening has shown.”

Source: The Organic Center

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