Designed to help consumers make informed choices, a great number of logos and descriptors adorn the goods available at retailers and markets across the country. Among them is the Canada Organic logo. Yet while Canadians increasingly choose the products bearing this mark of certification, they may not be all that familiar with the stringent standards supporting it, says Rochelle Eisen, president of Canadian Organic Growers (COG).
“The recognition of the Canada Organic logo is growing, but not as fast as consumer demand for organic products,” she explains. “As the demand grows, more people want to know what organic – and therefore certified – actually means. The logo helps convey that information, and events like Organic Week create awareness about what the logo stands for.”
Organized by the Canada Organic Trade Association (COTA), COG and the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA), Organic Week – the largest annual celebration of organic food, farming and products – is an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the organic sector and what it has to offer.
A recent consumer survey conducted by COTA, which aimed to understand consumers’ purchasing habits and determine the level of trust in organic claims, found that in addition to environmental and animal welfare concerns, Canadians are buying organics to avoid pesticides, chemicals and artificial ingredients.
“It’s no secret that Canadians are becoming more health conscious,” says Helen Long, CHFA president. She adds that Canada organic standards – which are widely recognized across the globe – place limits and prohibit the use of drugs, antibiotics, genetic engineering, irradiation, synthetic fertilizers and hormones, and toxic and persistent pesticides. “To ensure the food you bring home is made without harmful materials, simply look for the Canada Organic logo. It’s really that easy.”
But the recognition level of the organic logo fell short of the expectations of Tia Loftsgard, COTA’s executive director. “According to the consumer survey, 57 per cent of Canadians are still unfamiliar with the organic logo in Canada, which was launched in 2009,” she says.
Ms. Eisen has also noticed lingering “misconceptions around terminology, especially certified organic and local,” she explains. “Both are important for consumers, but local does not equal certified organic. Certified organic means that it adheres to a rigorous set of procedures and requirements.”
“Organic integrity begins at the farm and reaches all the way into your home,” says Ms. Long. “Canada has strict standards in place, overseen by our government, so you can trust that both domestic and imported foods with an organic logo have been produced using environmentally and animal-friendly methods every step of the way.”
Ms. Eisen adds, “Buying organic products is an easy way to say you care about the environment.”
Ms. Long has seen “dramatic growth” within the organic industry in recent years as a result of increased awareness of the benefits of going organic. “People have the right to make informed choices about what they eat, and to know that choosing organic means choosing to support your body, the environment and the jobs of local farmers.”
This trend is also reflected in the uptake of Organic Week, where the growing number of local partners is making it a truly national celebration, says Ms. Loftsgard. “That sends the message to the broader industry and the government that there is a strong national network of organic supporters, retailers and businesses teaming up for this celebration.”
Ms. Long adds, “During Organic Week, we encourage you to take part in the special events, or take some time to enjoy food and drink tastings, farm tours, workshops and more, all across the country. We want everyone to see just how easy it is to go organic.”
Organic Week continues to grow and get better every year, says Ms. Eisen. “This year is no exception. In 2016, we have over 2,000 retailers across Canada participating in Organic Week. That is fantastic exposure for the organic brand.”
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