Organic foods becoming more mainstream, scooping up awards in 2008

Posted by Isobel Drake on 25th August 2008

Niche Australian Certified Organic (ACO) processors have been pushed into the limelight this year, with organic products consistently awarded for outstanding innovation by the mainstream food industry.

“Organic companies have been small and focused on product development in the past. Now, as we emerge onto supermarket shelves and contribute more resources to marketing, people are starting to sit upright and say ‘this is fantastic, how long have you been doing this?!” noted Anni Brownjohn, Director of The Right Food Group (Ozganics) and BFA Processors Advisory Group chair.

“By doing things slightly differently with a focus on high quality and organic ingredients, organic processors naturally end up with innovative products that blend other unique attributes – gluten-free, vegan, allergy safe, carbon-neutral and so on,” Ms Brownjohn added.

Up against names of the ilk of Kraft, Heinz and Nestle, the latest industry benchmark sees five ACO certified companies listed as finalists and award-winners at this year’s Food Challenge Awards.

The companies dominated the hotly contested ‘Health and Wellness’ category, accounting for 50 per cent of finalist offerings with innovative products like category winner Pitango’s carbon-neutral, certified organic Risotto Range and Fresh Curry Meals, and second place winner Ozganic’s gluten-free, dairy-free and egg-free organic Caesar dressing.

Pitango, a New Zealand based company, became the world’s first fresh meal manufacturer to sell certified carbon neutral meals in April this year, after gaining accreditation with carboNZero.

“Good food processing is now about showing the way and thinking outside the square rather than following other people,” according to Yasmine Shenhav, Pitango founder. “It’s a big task and a big investment but we’re committed to high-quality products that look at the whole picture – this is the way of the future,”

And further delivering on organics’ growing reputation for tackling parent health concerns, Organic Bubs took second place in the ‘Ready Meals’ category. Leisa Dailly, Director, believes their products have struck a chord with consumers. “We don’t add preservatives, additives or sugars to children’s convenience meals. There was no product doing what ours do – providing convenient nutrition for fussy eaters and children with allergies,” she claimed. “It’s about nourishing twists on old favourites – handmade macaroni with mascarpone cheese, or mini cottage pie with kumera mash, for example.”

Ms Dailly notes that organic drives a constant search for manufacturing and packaging improvements and new methods.

Also commended for their ingenuity were Ecofarm’s Absolute Organic chips; and Ladybird Organic’s Wild Rocket, Baby Spinach and Salad Mix, in bio-degradable packaging.

Ms. Brownjohn believes organic companies will only get more competitive in the future. “Organic companies are proving they can move three times as fast as the big guys,” she suggested. “We’re taking a creative approach to a low-allergy, low-fat, healthy wellness market that consumers demand.”