Corporate Profiles - 2021 - 53

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with organic ingredients, represented $965 million of frozen food sales in
2016, according to IRI, as compiled for the AFFI's Power of Frozen 2021.
That number jumped to more than $1.5 billion in 2020, representing a
compound annual growth rate of 8.9% and a noteworthy jump of 18.7%
from 2019.
The growth led to supply constraints, stunting growth across all organic
categories, as well as packaging, said Angela Jagiello, director of
education and insights for the OTA.
One of the biggest challenges in frozen meals was the availability of
organic herbs and spices. Many herbs and spices - conventional and
organic - are sourced from outside the United States because they grow
best in tropical climates absent in most of the country. The pandemic
reduced the workforces abroad and at ports, slowing the growing, harvesting
and importing of the ingredients for frozen meals to feature an
organic claim.
The rate of growth for organic food sales is not expected to continue in
2021 at the same torrid pace as 2020 but is expected to remain strong
driven by lasting consumer behaviors such as continued increased home
cooking.
" We've seen a great many changes during the pandemic, and some of
them are here to stay, " Ms. Batcha said. " What's come out of COVID is
a renewed awareness of the importance of maintaining our health, and
the important role of nutritious food. For more and more consumers, that
means organic. We'll be eating in restaurants again, but many of us will
also be eating and cooking more at home. We'll see more organic everywhere
- in the stores and on our plates. "
A key for the organic category to continue growing is maintaining consumer
trust. Efforts begun in 2020 are underway to protect the organic
brand by preventing and detecting fraud.
In August 2020, the US Department of Agriculture published in the
Federal Register a proposed rule to expand the National Organic Program's
(NOP) oversight and enforcement of the production, handling and
sale of organic food products.
The proposed rule responded to organic industry requests for the NOP
to adopt more robust measures to thwart fraud. The booming market for
Corporate Profiles
organic food products, the price premium accorded to organic foods and
gaps in USDA oversight have attracted unscrupulous players seeking to
pass non-organically grown food as organic.
For example, five men were convicted in 2019 for crimes connected
to the sale of $142 million in grain sales in Missouri, most fraudulently
claiming to be organic. Such fraud compromises consumer confidence in
the USDA's organic label.
The USDA said the proposed rule would reduce the types of uncertified
entities in the organic supply chain that operate without USDA oversight
- including importers, brokers and traders of organic products.
The restrictions are designed to safeguard organic product integrity and
improve traceability, according to the Department.
The proposed rule would require the use of NOP Import Certificates,
or equivalent data, for all organic products entering the United States.
The rule also would clarify the NOP's authority to oversee certification
activities, including the authority to act against an agent or office of
a certifying agent, and included several discretionary actions to further
strengthen enforcement of the organic regulations.
The final rule is expected to be published in the spring of 2022.
Concurrently, the OTA has developed and implemented its Organic
Fraud Prevention Solutions program. The initiative is designed to meet
the needs of the organic supply chain and is based on buyer responsibility
and supplier verification. Companies in the program are provided
with the Organic Fraud Prevention Guide, which lays out a risk-based
approach for developing and implementing a written Organic Fraud Prevention
Plan, which is a requirement of the proposed USDA rule.
" The organic sector is committed to maintaining the integrity of organic,
and we are glad to see companies taking advantage of the valuable
tool we've developed to help them in their battle against fraud, "
said Gwendolyn Wyard, vice president of regulatory and technical affairs
for the OTA. " Our program can get companies ready to comply with the
USDA's new rule once it is finalized and to safeguard the integrity of the
USDA Organic seal on their products. "
As of late June, approximately 165 businesses were enrolled in the
program or beginning the process of enrollment. CP
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October 2021 / 53

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