Getting on board with ‘organics in training’

by Dan Malovany
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Kashi Dark Cocoa Karma Shredded Wheat Biscuits is the first product to earn the QAI Certified Transitional mark.
Kashi Dark Cocoa Karma Shredded Wheat Biscuits is the first product to earn the QAI Certified Transitional mark.

“Certified transitional” — here’s an organic foods innovation that makes good economic sense, and it’s getting the attention of at least one leading C.P.G. player: Kashi, the La Jolla, Calif.-based subsidiary of Kellogg Co.

There’s a supply problem in the organic market. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, consumer demand for organic foods has grown by double-digits every year since the 1990s, but organic acreage has not kept up. Less than 1% of U.S. farmland is certified organic. Getting conventionally farmed land ready to meet organic certification under the U.S.D.A.’s National Organic Program (N.O.P.) requires the farmer to abstain from the use of bioengineered seeds and synthetic pesticides for three years. Crops grown during those years do not qualify for sale as organic.

However, in January, the U.S.D.A. partnered with the Organic Trade Association to develop a National Certified Transitional Program. Think of it as “organics in training.” Quality Assurance International (Q.A.I.), a third-party organic certification group, put together guidelines for each year of the three required to gain organic certification of a farm. It requires separation of transitional crops from conventional and organic and verifies farming practices.

Kashi now uses certified transitional wheat in its Dark Cocoa Karma shredded wheat biscuits and Chewy Nut Butter Bars. Kashi’s television ads and web site explain this new ingredient supply concept to consumers.

“We believe championing farms in transition will make organic foods more accessible and support a more sustainable food system — for all of us,” said David Denholm, Kashi’s chief executive officer.

At least two commercial baking industry suppliers now offer ingredients with transitional status. There will be more. 

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