Organic food movement in Japan progressing slowly

Organic food movement in Japan progressing slowly Duco Delgorge, President & CEO of MIE PROJECT Co Ltd

TOKYO —

While the organic food movement in Japan is showing some signs of progress, it is still very small. In terms of per capita consumption (about 1,000 yen/person/year) and penetration levels (0.4% of the food market), Japan is way down the list compared with other countries. About 45% of the global organic food market is in Europe and about 45% in the U.S. The rest of the world accounts for the remaining 10%, and Japan itself just 2%.

One company aiming to help wake up the Japanese market is MIE PROJECT. Duco Delgorge, founder and president, has long believed in the benefits of organic food for health and the environment, as well as in its business potential.

Established in 2005, MIE PROJECT (MIE stands for Meaning, Inspiration and Effectiveness) is progressively expanding distribution to a wide variety of retailers with products such as Clipper tea, Mount Hagen coffee, Provamel soya milk, Nature’s Path cereals, CLIF Bar energy bars, and Fiordifrutta fruit spreads, to mention just a few.

Born in Prague, Duco lived in New York, Mumbai and Sydney before venturing to his native Netherlands where he completed a traineeship with Philips. In the 1980s, he joined Unilever in England and was posted to Japan from 1988 until 1992 as marketing manager. In 1995, Duco joined Puratos Japan, a Belgian food ingredients company, as general manager, before leaving in January 2008 to concentrate on MIE PROJECT.

Japan Today editor Chris Betros visits Delgorge at the MIE PROJECT office in Shibuya to hear more.

How have sales in 2014 been so far?

The first six months have been pretty good but we expect faster growth in the second half. Next year will be our 10th anniversary, so we are planning a few special things to celebrate.

Did the sales tax hike in April affect your business?

Unfortunately, like many other importing companies, we had to increase prices of many of our products at the same time as the VAT increase, due to adverse exchange rate movements and increases in product prices. Sales growth slowed a bit in April-May but has since picked up again.

What is the state of the organic food movement in Japan?

There are signs of progress. However, the organic food market in Japan is still seriously underperforming compared to the rest of the developed world. In Japan, organic food is just 0.4% of the total food market, whereas the global average is around 2%. This is also apparent in the availability of organic food in supermarkets and the number of organic specialist retailers, both significantly lagging the situation in Europe and the U.S.

Why is progress so slow in Japan?

It is a combination of many factors, but principally supply side constraints. The reasons are the hot and humid climate, small-scale farming, no support from the government and the big influence that JA (Japan Agriculture) has on the industry. Most farmers get their finance, materials, pesticides and fertilizers through JA and it seems to be difficult for farmers to leave JA and go organic. Also, it is cumbersome and costly for farmers to get organic JAS certification so some do not bother. Imports have also been rather limited until recently. We are trying to address that aspect.

What about on the consumers’ side?

From the consumers’ point of view, price will always be one factor. Because most of the organic food in Japan is imported, and many items have high import duties, organic food will be more expensive compared with Europe or the United States where a lot more organic food is locally produced. Availability is another issue. You don’t have as many choices in Japan. The selection in stores here is nothing like what you’ll find in Europe and the U.S. where stores have really big organic selections. If we consider organic specialist retailers, there is Natural House but it has only about 30 stores, which tend to be quite small. This contrasts sharply with Whole Foods in the U.S., or the organic retail chains you find in many European countries. Natural Lawson is also a high profile retailer but actually carries very few organic items.

But there are signs that consumers are getting increasingly interested in organic food and in healthier diets. This is a stable long-term trend, which augurs well for the future of organic food in Japan.

How do you market the brands you import?

Like most small importers, we have a limited marketing budget. We want to grow to the point where we can properly promote the brands. At present, we depend on merchandising, in-store tastings, social media, word of mouth and PR events. It is all about awareness and trial. Most people who try our products become loyal customers.

Where are your products sold?

We are in about 1,500 stores – department stores, high-end supermarkets, mainstream supermarkets, health food stores, specialty stores and cafes. Our presence in home lifestyle stores like Muji, as well as mainstream supermarkets such as AEON, is growing. We are aiming to cover as much of the market as possible, though this will take time.

After 10 years experience, I can say that getting your products onto store shelves is only 50% of the job. No matter how great the products are, tremendous effort is required to ensure they sell. A brand may be big in the part of the world where it is from but more often than not, that is not the case here in Japan. It takes time for people here to get to know the products.

What about online sales?

Apart from our own online store www.choosee.com, we also sell to specialist online retailers like Amazon, Kenko.com, and some others. Altogether, these account for about 15-20% of our total sales.

Where do you see growth potential?

Although some of our brands are quite widely available, there is a lot of scope to expand distribution of all of our products – some more than others – within our existing customer base and beyond.

Geographically, we also have excellent growth potential. We have some presence around the country but many gaps remain. Also, while our product range is quite elaborate, we still find new exceptional products – and sometimes they find us – which have great potential. With a food retail market worth over $300 billion per annum, there is plenty of long-term growth potential in Japan. And we may consider opportunities outside Japan one day.

Have any products had to be modified for the Japanese market?

CLIF bar was reformulated for the Japanese market. As an energy bar, it has certain ingredients that are allowed in the U.S. but not in Japan. So that had to be adapted.

With Nocciolata, an organic hazelnut chocolate spread produced in Italy by Rigoni di Asiago, we did not adapt, but we had to wait several years because it contains sunflower lecithin. Japan had allowed only soya lecithin and rapeseed lecithin until a few months ago, but now Japan has aligned with the EU and the U.S. in accepting sunflower lecithin, seen by many food companies as the best option. So finally we could launch it now. Generally speaking, we face few problems regarding ingredients, as organic regulations are already so restrictive.

Where do you source your products?

Most of our products come from Europe, but we also source from the U.S., Canada, Australia and Sri Lanka. We source from 11 countries in total. For a long time, we were hesitant about importing from the U.S. because there was a slight incompatibility between organic regulations in the U.S. and Japan. That changed last November when the two countries signed a mutual recognition agreement on organic products. That has opened the door for more U.S. organic products to come to Japan.

What are your best-selling brands?

Our bestsellers are Clipper Tea, Mount Hagen coffee - on Amazon, it is often the best-selling instant coffee; also, Provamel soya drinks, Rigoni di Asiago – Fiordifrutta fruit spreads, and Mielbio honey. More recently, we have launched CLIF Bar energy bars and Nature’s Path cereals and granolas, both of which are really taking off.

How many staff do you have?

We have a great team of 16 people.

What is a typical day for you?

I usually work around 14 hours a day, seven days a week. There is always plenty to do and I enjoy it. It is my life. Although I need to spend a lot of time in the office, I also get out to the market and customers as much as possible, and then there are periods traveling overseas to find and meet suppliers.

How often do you eat organic foods?

Everyday, as much as possible. I usually buy organic fruit and vegetables once a week, they taste so much better than non-organic ones. And I eat our products everyday. I love them. The tagline for CHOOSEE, our online website, is “Every Reason to Love” ... and it is true.

Japan Today

  • 0

    Pukey2

    I wish the organic movement in Japan lots of luck!

    Back home, I can get organic fruit and vegetables in most supermarkets for less than the price of 'ordinary' ones in Japanese supermarkets! Something's wrong here.

    CLIF bar was reformulated for the Japanese market. As an energy bar, it has certain ingredients that are allowed in the U.S. but not in Japan.

    As someone who likes Clif Bar (a vegan snack without the obligatory shortening, butter and other crap), I wonder what the difference is between the American ones and the ones sold here. I've bought them in some posh supermarkets and also Costco and they just look like the original American ones, but with a sticker stuck on them, with the ingredients written in Japanese (and I wouldn't be surprised if the Japanese list of ingredients doesn't match up with the original, as is usually the case).

    It's disgusting that Provamel costs at least 3 to 4 times the amount you'd pay in the UK or elsewhere. About 700-1000 yen for a carton of Provamel soya milk! Come on. I actually prefer Provamel to any Japanese version, but I'm not going to pay that amount! The UK has a version without any sugar added but is naturally sweet and palatable. The ones here are either loaded with sugar or taste just a bit too beany.

  • 2

    Gudni Gudnason

    Good job that Duco is doing and I hope that we see more ORGANIC in Japan!

  • 1

    Novenachama

    Organic food is safer than conventionally grown food because fungicides, herbicides, and insecticides can be carcinogenic. Pesticides may also be neurotoxins, endocrine disruptors and immune system suppressors. Gong organic reduces the risk of food allergies that many people experience when eating GMO food. Organic food taste better and is nutritionally superior to conventional products. They actually have higher levels of vital mineral and contain more antioxidants. Organic farming also uses less energy, conserves more water, causes less soil erosion, maintain soil quality, conserves biological resources and helps prevent harmful chemicals from getting into the air, ground, and water than conventional farming. Last of all organic farming is earth friendly, efficient and encourages innovative research,

  • 3

    DucoDelgorge

    Many thanks to Japan Today for the interview, and also for the comments. It is true that imported organic foods can be rather expensive for reasons explained in the interview. Still, we do try to keep prices as low as possible, though I know it does not always seem that way. The weakening of the Yen has not helped in this respect. The only Provamel 1 Litre that gets close to JPY 1,000 is the Almond drink, which is JPY 896. Most of the others are around JPY 650-700. Unfortunately, organic almonds are more expensive. The most suitable non-sugar added Provamel soya drink may be the Plus Calcium (JPY642) - ingredients: Hulled organic soya beans (non-GMO), organic apple concentrate, algae lithothamnium calcareum (where the calcium comes from), sea salt. Regarding labels, a lot of time is spent ensuring that each label is correct, communicating and checking with the suppliers, and also with the Japanese authorities. Our hope is that by importing exceptional organic food to Japan it will stimulate local growers and producers to also invest in the organic market. For now, Japan has the most under-performing organic food market amongst developed countries. We hope that will change. There are some positive signs.

  • 1

    Andreas Zachcial

    Expensive. Most products on the website you can get cheaper from iHerb.com

  • 3

    DucoDelgorge

    Indeed, iHerb will always be cheaper as it is direct import, avoiding import duties, Japanese labelling, supply chain margins, etc., and a lot more besides.

  • 0

    NZ2011

    Novenachama

    Can I suggest you do some reading about naturalistic fallacy.

  • 0

    gogogo

    in the benefits of organic food for health and the environment

    Top university studies including one from Oxford say different.

  • 3

    Jeff Huffman

    Given how much lip service is paid to purity of this and that in Japan, few Japanese realize that their fruits, vegetables and, particularly, the national staple are all grown with greater amounts of artificial fertilizers and pesticides/herbicides than the same raised in the U.S. And I just assume that imported fruits and vegetables from China are dosed worse yet than domestically grown foodstuffs.

  • 2

    Novenachama

    @NZ2011

    I am very well aware about naturalistic fallacy and know it is a controversial topic and is debatable. Why spend massive resources on PR efforts to convince people not to care about pesticides, antibiotic, hormones or GMOs in food, rather than giving consumers what they want which is safe, healthy food grown in ways that don't harm people or the planet? Unfortunately with the proliferation of industry-associated scientists, websites and opinion pieces attacking organic agriculture and spinning their narratives about the safety of chemical-intensive GMO foods, reporters and the public must probe deeper and question the real motive behind the so-called independent sources of information.

  • -1

    commanteer

    Japanese are smarter than this, I hope. Almost everything his company sells is a processed food, which Americans love but Japanese are not (yet) so keen on. Stick an organic label on a processed "health snack" so people can feel good about eating their junk food.

    Unfortunately, intensive marketing is pushing younger Japanese toward the same processed and unhealthy diet that Westerners suffer from. That's step one.

    Step two is to introduce organic processed foods, charge a premium for it, and convince people that their diet will be healthier if they buy it.

    End result, great profits for the food business, because it's too much work to get rich selling people fresh and unprocessed vegetables. Mr. Delgorge has it backwards. His industry hasn't caught on here because it's aimed at people who already eat garbage. Of course, by riding on the coattails of Unilever and other processed food giants, he will eventually get his market. But it's like getting people addicted to cigarettes, for example, and then "helping" them by coming out with a new brand of reduced tar "safe" cigarettes - so people can continue to smoke but feel good about it. The trick is to not get on that conveyer line in the first place.

  • -1

    Pukey2

    commanteer:

    The Japanese don't need the organic movement to enjoy their junk food - they're already eating it.

    Almost everything his company sells is a processed food

    So I gather you only eat fresh fruit and vegetables, and nothing which comes out of a bottle or carton? Good luck with that.

    DucoDelgorge:

    Thanks for your comments. Almond milk is another thing I love.

  • -2

    commanteer

    So I gather you only eat fresh fruit and vegetables, and nothing which comes out of a bottle or carton?

    Well, for example, I eat almonds. One could choose almond milk, with the additional processing, use of energy and water, and transportation of the much heavier finished product. It may be organic, but that's a band-aid that mostly serves to make the consumer feel better about his purchase. So I stick with almonds.

    Like I said, Mr. Delgorge will see profits if he hangs in there long enough to see junk food become more dominant in Japan. Whether Japanese are eating as much junk food as the west is beside the point. They are clearly headed in that direction, pushed mostly by marketing campaigns and lack of education about food. What follows will be the band-aid, the demand for organic processed foods, also driven by marketing.

    I'm saying the superior solution is to simply go fresh, and not have all of your food choices made for you by corporate marketing schemes. Sadly, that seems to be the future though. At least, by going organic, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that you are eating better junk food than most poor people are. But it will still be junk food.

  • -1

    Cos

    Almost everything his company sells is a processed food,

    Exactly. Kombini junk, with one or two zero added on the price tag.

    Well, for example, I eat almonds. One could choose almond milk,

    And one can make it from these almonds. That takes 1 minute of your time with basic equipment.

    It may be organic,

    Unlikely because the liquid contains additives for preservation and it sits months in a package that progressively releases chemicals that are not in the organic range.

    rather than giving consumers what they want which is safe, healthy food grown in ways that don't harm people or the planet?

    I think carrying useless tons and tons of water infused with token amounts of organic produce is harming the planet. And evidence are accumulating to demonstrate how drinking from those packs day after day is detrimental to people's health.

    but that's a band-aid that mostly serves to make the consumer feel better about his purchase.

    Exactly. They are really selling to super snobs. There is a market of nonsense hipsters in Japan, but with less and less means.

    So I gather you only eat fresh fruit and vegetables, and nothing which comes out of a bottle or carton?

    That could be. But no. I buy oil and few products in (preferably glass) bottle. There is a huge middle way between eating only fresh local organic produce and stupidly wasting money on products like the first and only I checked on this site : "Peruvian coffee". It's the ground coffee with long shelf life (translation : stale coffee, beans are good within an hour after grinding and within 10 days after roasting). Oh that's a brand I know, as we can get it for 3~4 euros in French supermarkets (which is expensive since non-organic equivalent is 0.5~2 euros). Here it's priced as :

    exceptional organic food

    Take a seat : about 1300 yen ! For 250 g, that means over 5000 yen per kg. For the price, you could get freshly roasted Blue Mountain, here it's just old stale Peru robusta. That gets expensive just because the beans have a stylish French label retranslated in Japanese and the product traveled all the way over the world... And you will say :

    I actually prefer [that crap] to any Japanese version,

    That demonstrates that all you know about Japan is Lawson and Aeon and you've never been to one of the many coffee roaster's. And we can take 90% of the offer of this shop and get to the same conclusion.

  • 1

    Pukey2

    Cos:

    I don't know who you're talking to. You seem to be taking bits of my words, and then you mention coffee. To me, the whole point of organic is that they don't contain pesticide residues or other undesirable chemicals. I don't think there's anything healthier in it - I just prefer to eat less chemicals. This is hardly catering to snobs. With the price of organic stuff in other countries like UK, even the lower class can afford to buy them.

    That demonstrates that all you know about Japan is Lawson and Aeon and you've never been to one of the many coffee roaster's.

    I was referring to soya milk, and then you go and quote me on coffee again. Can you not read? And I don't do my shopping at convenience stores - I hardly ever find anything I like there.

    commanter:

    So I stick with almonds.

    Suddenly it's a big no-no to blend almonds with water? But I'll ask you again, do you ever eat anything out of a bottle, jar or other container? Or are you on the paleo-diet? Good on you if you are, but life is damn boring if people didn't have the occasional treat and have some ice cream, cookies, coffee, potato chips and what have you.

    I'm saying the superior solution is to simply go fresh, and not have all of your food choices made for you by corporate marketing schemes.

    Usually nobody makes choices for you - you make them yourselves. I don't think eating McDonalds is exactly healthy, but nobody is forced to eat that crap. People go there out of their own free will. The only time when you don't have a choice is when farmers don't grow organic fruit and veg and there is no other choice but pesticide-laden stuff.

    And is organic fruit and veg junk food too?

  • -2

    commanteer

    Suddenly it's a big no-no to blend almonds with water? No, sounds like a good idea. Assuming you do it yourself. It would cheaper, much easier on the environment and, most importantly, you would know what is in the almond milk because you processed it yourself. It might take 2 or 3 minutes at most - so why pay a premium for an inferior and ecologically harmful product?

    I do buy junk food, by the way. But I don't wear it as a badge of honor, as this article implies I should. What set me off was the tone of this article, which tries to make junk food seem like an enlightened choice - as long as it's organic. Using words like "progress" and "wake up" to describe people who fall for this marketing scheme is absurd.

    I don't blame these guys for trying to make sales. I have been in the food business, and the real profits are all in heavily processed foods, not fresh. That's where the money is. I might even use the same misleading copy to entice people to buy - saying that they are the enlightened and healthy ones. Business is business, after all. I just wish people would think about where they are being led. At a local store, I see young people buying single serving granolas to take home at 1000 yen a pop, the total daily food budget for too many families in Japan. Nobody should be proud of that.

  • 0

    DucoDelgorge

    Thank you all very much for your comments. Interesting subjects raised. I also try to eat fresh organic fruits and vegetables each day. That is important for sure. And yes, the food we import and sell is processed, but hopefully you will find that the level of processing is much less than most of the mass market products available, and the number of additives is minimal or zero in many cases. Anyway, our only wish is to bring more choice to Japanese consumers at the best possible price. As long as we make some people happy, I feel we have served a purpose.

  • -4

    Pandabelle

    Oh, Organic foods? Sounds lovely, except for the much lower crop yields and resulting poorer land usage.

  • 1

    commanteer

    As long as we make some people happy, I feel we have served a purpose.

    Thanks for the comment. When I started, I forgot this was simply a promotional article. For sure, lot's of processed foods are unavoidable - take chocolate. Lot's of reasons to be wary of where chocolate comes from, and some dubious practices in the harvest of much chocolate in Africa. Nice to have an alternative that's safe.

    I just think Americans have been more fully sold on processed foods - to the point that they even buy processed foods that they could better make at home in under a minute, such as simple salad dressings. So naturally they will be big buyers of organic processed foods.

    I think the phrase in the article "help wake up the Japanese market" was annoying, but those were the words of the author, not you or your company. Best of luck.

  • 0

    DucoDelgorge

    Pandabelle, thank you for your insights. There is a lot of research put out by those for organic farming and those against; we need to study each with a critical eye. My view is that large scale commercial farming, though it may offer better yields in the short-term, is simply not sustainable. Issues like soil erosion, large amounts of chemicals that get washed into rivers and the seas (many dead zones around the world), the effects of chemicals on humans (farmers and consumers), etc. (there are many other issues besides) all lead me to believe that organic and sustainable farming practices are a necessary part of our agricultural landscape. Also, it has been shown that organic farms are far more resilient to extreme weather conditions (extreme wet and dry) than non organic farms, where the soil is left unprotected for long periods. I can only follow my compass based on what I have read and what I know. I hope to keep learning and contributing as I feel I best can. As long as I continue to see the need for organic food, which seems to be the case, and as long as I feel that I am at least trying to do the right thing, and enough people acknowledge it, I intend to stay the course. Just keep learning and keep improving...that is all I can do.

  • 3

    zichi

    We lived for ten years in the Japan Alps before moving to our present location. In the Alps grew most of our foods using organic farming. I produced about 50 different types. The locals were surprised that a "foreigner" knew how to farm but when they saw the results they began asking questions. For the commerical farmer the problem is the JA which tells the farmers how to grow and what chemicals to use, and if they don't follow the instructions, the JA will refuse to buy their crops.

    Back in my home country, Britain, I started quite a few organic food co-operatives because back then there weren't so many health food stores and stores for buying but the co-operative system can work very well with bulk buying to cut the costs and dividing it up amongst the members, but it does need committment from all the members otherwise they tend to fall apart.

    One source I used were the macrobiotic stores, with the macrobiotic system originating from a Japanese guy, george Oshawa.

  • -3

    Tessa

    Meh. If organic foods are so wonderful, health-giving, and life-prolonging, then why do Japanese women have the longest life expectancies in the world? I'm all for eating whatever they eat.

  • 1

    Selchuk Driss

    If organic foods are so wonderful, health-giving, and life-prolonging, then why do Japanese women have the longest life expectancies in the world?

    I'd rather live healthy than long. The human body was not designed to live beyond a certain age.

  • -1

    DucoDelgorge

    We are not about indoctrinating anyone regarding organic food. Everyone is free to do as they wish. Freedom and responsibility are two key principles I believe in. We are simply offering an option for those people who want it. Nothing wrong with that is there? If no one wants what we offer, or if everyone thinks our products are too expensive, we will surely go out of business and I can find something else more worthwhile to spend my life doing. Our hope is to keep growing, to help encourage more Japanese businesses and farmers to go organic, and to help humanity shift to sustainable development. We are but a tiny cog in the wheel. If some people do not see it this way, that is just how it is. I keep looking for ways we can add value to society. I am sure that others are far more capable and effective than we are but that is just a reflection of my/our inadequacies. Still, we try to improve each day. Alas, it takes more time than expected. C'est la vie.

  • 1

    SushiSake3

    I've tried some of the products Mr. Delgorge's company sells and think they are worth the effort and the price. 

    I have managed a tiny community garden plot in Tokyo for 3 years and have been swamped with food, all of it grown with no added chemicals or sprays, which is the way it's been done pretty much forever until commercial farming practices  started pumping in the chemicals and rates of cancers and other preventable diseases began to head skyward. 

    Besides the processing, I think there's nothing 'wrong' or strange about the methods used to produce Mr. Delgorge's company's products. Genuine "organic" equates to real food. It doesn't get much simpler than that.

    Also, the argument about greater yields of commercially-grown crops is a false one in my opinion. I see no solid rationale in why greater yields of commercially-grown crops are considered 'better' if consumers of that food are only going to boost their chances of coming down with allergies, cancer, or worse, and end up feeding their own kids chemical-laden food.

    30-40% of cancers are diet-related.  Our food is killing us.  That shouldn't be happening, but it is, largely, I believe, because of the chemicals used  - as standard practice - by commercial farmers. 

    I say, cut your losses, food bills and chances of getting some bad arse disease by growing your own. 

  • 1

    GPJP2008

    I think it's great to be able to buy foods that would otherwise not be available.

    Great stuff!

    Certainly I have bought some of these products here in Japan and have even heard of http://www.choosee.com though haven't ordered from there yet.

  • 1

    Peorola

    Nice article, highlighting the hard work towards positive sustainability. Me and many of my friends choose organic because we want to protect farmers in the field as well as wild animals from leaking (un protective use) chemicals. I've seen myself this happening in several countries. We need organic choices, so keep up your good job Duco!

  • 0

    DucoDelgorge

    Many thanks for the positive feedback. Highly appreciated!

  • -4

    sighclops

    More like the pseudo-science movement. I challenge anyone here to actually define "organic". For the record, all animals and plants are defined as "organic". So is plastic.

    The whole organic movement is a marketing goldmine, and not much else. In fact, most "organic" food (close to 100%) is produced from Big Agriculture, anyway! Even "organic" crops use herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers.

  • 3

    zichi

    "Organic" to me means growing foods without the additional use of chemicals like pesticides and fertilizers. Processing foods without the use of chemicals and food additives. That way we can eat any enjoy the food the way nature meant it to be. Easy really!

  • 1

    SushiSake3

    sighclops, "organic" - or "real" food is simply defined the way Zichi said: food grown without additional use of chemicals. For certification, it also needs to be grown in chemical-free soil, too.

    sighclops - "The whole organic movement is a marketing goldmine, and not much else."

    Perhaps you should start doing some reseach. Food has been grown organically since food production began. It's not a marketing gimmick - it simply produces real food that isn't going to poison people like commercially-grown food does.

    Really, it's not rocket science.

    sighclops - "In fact, most "organic" food (close to 100%) is produced from Big Agriculture, anyway! Even "organic" crops use herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers."

    Sorry, if they have been genuinely certified as organic, and the growers are honest, no artificial herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers will have been used.

  • 0

    commanteer

    Sorry guys, but organic is not a magic wand. Organic means nothing unless the country specifies laws permitting use of the term. Yet, even where they do, organic monoculture and large-scale industrial farming are the norm. Yes, so the pesticides and fertilizers are approved organic. They are approved by the government, which (of course) we know to be completely immune to pressure from lobbyists.

    I'd rather rather buy from a company that I know practices responsible, sustainable and safe food production. To do that, I'd have to buy locally. If I can't buy locally, I might go organic, but I might not bother either way. But that's just me.

    The label "organic" is indeed mostly a marketing gimmick. It takes advantage of the general lack of knowledge that the public has about commercial food production.

    Again, nothing against the company represented here. I am sure their processed food is generally of better quality than the processed food you will find in your local supermarket. Though I doubt, if you have a healthy diet that is low in processed foods, it will make a difference to your overall health.

  • 2

    DucoDelgorge

    Some final thoughts from my side...I think it is incorrect to say that all processed food is junk food. Very few people would call organic raisins, olive oil, tea, coffee, honey, fruit spreads, pure pressed fruit juice, rye bread, mustard, etc. junk food, though I appreciate that each person is entitled to his/her own opinion. The top quality foods we import are amongst the best available in the world, according to competitions (many are prize winners) and to the many people who love and buy them. Regarding price, I have mentioned it before...unfortunately, the higher prices are unavoidable due to the supply chain, which is necessary to reach the general public, and to make the products widely available, as our suppliers and we wish to make them. Indeed, many of our customers, who appreciate the quality of the products we import, and the costs of importing, tell us that they are surprised at how reasonably they are priced. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

    Regarding organic, indeed it is not a "magic wand", but we believe that it is a step in the right direction. Buying local as much as possible is also important, and there are many sustainable farms out there that are not organic certified. Home gardens, city farms, aquaponics, and many more concepts will continue to evolve according to needs. There is no single magic wand except perhaps our resolve to do what we believe is right. I do not think we can say that everything is "organic" as suggested by one person; and organic is no more a gold mine than any other business; it also comes with its costs, complexities and hurdles, all of which make it very challenging, for the producers as well as the importers, but very rewarding as well.

    My inspiration for starting this company came from reading "Beyond the Limits" in 1992. The original book from these authors was "The Limits to Growth" published in 1972. It is clear that humanity is on a collision course with many limits - environmental, economic, and social. I am simply trying to find some way, based on my capabilities, to be part of the long-term solution, and at the same time to bring delicious, high quality products to people who want them, and to make a living. This is not our final goal, but it is a project we are proud of and one that can hopefully lead us to do even better things in the future. "Rome wasn't built in a day". Most importantly, I am immensely thankful to the countless people who have supported us, including especially our many wonderful suppliers, our customers, our partners, and our hard-working and talented team. The journey continues and I am enjoying it immensely, and also curious and hopeful about where it will lead us to.

  • 1

    deadbeatles

    Bought organic food once. A head of lettuce, that when cut into, was hollowed out at the core with live bugs. My first and last experience.

  • 0

    ebisen

    Deadbeatles - oh come, you need some protein with your veggies.

    If I think about, I might have produced in my 5x5m garden more than 30.000 Yen worth of herbs this year. All organic, all for our consumption.. not too shabby...

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