A few days ago my husband and I were shopping at our local Hy-Vee grocery store when we stumbled upon Crisco Certified Organic Coconut Oil right there in the regular cooking aisle. We immediately put the cart into reverse to go back and verify what we thought we had seen. Was it real? We stared at it in disbelief before deciding we had to capture this mutation in the wild! I mean really…when has the Crisco logo EVER been seen next to the USDA Certified Organic seal?
A Visceral Response and Growing Distrust of Big Food
It's turned out to be an unexpected way to take the pulse of Americans at this particular time in history. There's been such a visceral response that the photo has gone viral since we first uploaded it to Facebook (over 3 million people have seen it now).
Reactions have run the gamut from utter disbelief, to accusations of photoshopping, and even claims that Crisco must have paid the FDA under the table for use of the USDA Certified Organic seal – clearly evidence of a growing distrust of Big Food. In fact, Campbell Soup CEO Denise Morrison was quoted earlier this month in Fortune Magazine explaining the precarious position of legacy brands (like Kraft Foods, ConAgra and J.M. Smuckers, Crisco's parent company):
Like other companies in our industry, we’re contending with now not just the long-term impact of the Great Recession on consumer purchasing behavior, or the increasingly complex public dialog when it comes to food, or the regulatory environment for food. What’s more, the traditional avenue for selling Campbell’s products—grocery stores—are coming under a lot of pressure from alternative retailers.
Consumers are demanding change and Big Food is beginning to respond.
Confusion About Organic Certification
We also noticed while reading through thousands of comments that there's a whole lot of confusion about the organic certification process. Only Organic does a great job of explaining how the organic seal indicates that food has been grown in sync with the environment, while looking out for the health of humans and animals by avoiding the use of harmful substances, like toxic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers andgenetically engineered (GE) seeds.
It's a difficult certification to achieve, requiring a large investment of time and money from companies submitting their products for third party oversight. And the truth is that organic certification is the only way we can verify that the claims being made on food labels are true, all the way from the farm to our table.
What's Your Take on Crisco's Shift to Organic?
Are you completely turned off by the idea that Crisco is testing the market for organic products? If so, you might be surprised to know that Crisco's new organic coconut oil is also Non-GMO Project Verified (check it out for yourself right here). But most people don't seem to be swayed even in light of this information, especially because the company has supported bans on GMO labeling. About 80% of the folks we've talked to so far said they either don't trust it or they just aren't interested in buying it and will continue supporting companies that back GMO labeling and began providing certified organic products long before it was fashionable (brands like Nutiva, Dr. Bronner's and Tropical Traditions were mentioned over and over).
The health of our families is changing. It is driving a fundamental shift in the way that we feed our loved ones. With the record rates of food allergies, diabetes and obesity, a growing number of consumers look for “free-from” foods, foods that are free from trans fats, artificial ingredients and GMOs, and more and more Americans are turning towards organic. It is where the industry is seeing tremendous growth. Crisco's move is a smart financial one as it is an attempt to play in this space and capture the upside. The landscape of food is changing. ~Robyn O'Brien
For organic to be sustainable, it must be profitable. Seeing companies like Crisco test the waters in targeted areas with organic products tells us the demand for good food is increasing. And as long as Americans want organic, they will get it. Then they get to pick and choose which companies they want to support. ~Leah Segedie
I don't know about you, but we agree with their perspective and see this shift as progress. Big Food is feeling the pressure and is responding to consumer demand. Isn't that what we wanted? Isn't this how we move forward to create a world where truly healthy food options are available to everyone?
So what do YOU think? Share your thoughts in the comments!
P.S. We've been asked whether it's refined, and we don't have the information yet. In the meantime, keep in mind that the term “refined” doesn't automatically mean that scary chemical processes or hydrogenation are involved. Even Nutiva makes a refined certified organic coconut oil for people that don't want the coconut-y taste.
UPDATE: We just heard back from Crisco about how the coconut oil is refined and here’s what they said: “It is expeller pressed, and then refined using a mechanical process that does not include the addition of any solvents or other chemicals.”