America has a growing appetite for all things healthy. From zero trans-fat snacks to fortified foods with added health benefits, if it's good for the consumer, it's most likely good for business. Even candy is being loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, healthy extracts and vitamin C. But the real buzzword is organic. According to the Organic Trade Association, based in Greenfield, Massachusetts, organic food sales in the U.S. totaled nearly $14 billion in 2005, with double-digit growth expected from 2007 to 2010. According to the association's press secretary, Barbara Haumann, consumers--especially the Generation Y crowd--are happy to do away with added hormones, antibiotics and genetic modifications.
Not sure there's room for more competitors on the organic playing field? Have no fear. Opportunities abound, especially in niche areas like alcohol (according to the Organic Trade Association, organic beers grew from $9 mil-lion in 2003 to $19 million in 2005), candy, condiments and sauces, not to mention food for kids, babies and pets.
Gigi Lee Chang, 39, received a warm welcome when she officially launched her line of organic, frozen baby food products nationwide in major retailers like Wild Oats and Whole Foods Market as well as smaller natural and organic grocery stores this past August. Based in New York City, Plum Organics is the first to launch organic, frozen baby food on a national level, and Chang (above) expects 2007 sales to hit $1 million. Not bad for a company in its infancy.
Thinking of launching your own organic foods business? Follow these tips:
- Play by the rules. "Entrepreneurs have to realize that there are national organic standards," says Barbara Haumann, spokeswoman at the Organic Trade Association, a business association in Greenfield, Massachusetts, that represents all sectors of the organic industry. "Big, little or whatever, the standards apply to all. And we need to uphold the integrity of organic because it does mean something. You have to really do the research and follow the rules." For information on how to become certified organic, check out the Organic Trade Association's website at www.ota.com.
- Go back to school. Gigi Lee Chang, 39-year-old founder of Plum Organics, an organic frozen baby food company in New York City, signed up for classes that were being offered by her local universities. The classes helped her gain perspective into an industry that she had no previous experience in.
- Take baby steps. Before launching Plum Organics, Chang broke up the overwhelming task of launching a line of baby products into baby steps. Says Chang, "It was very much breaking it down and saying if I want to go from where I am now to my goal, what are the things that I need to do, what are the questions that I need to answer and then how do I go about trying to answer them."
- Set goals and stay on schedule. "You have to be very clear on your goal of when you want to be in market because whether you're doing it full time or not, if you don't have a specific time frame to work toward, it can just get put on the back burner," says Chang. "I would encourage others to really put the stake in the ground and say, I'm going to do it by my birthday or by this trade show--whatever the markers might be."
- Attend industry trade shows. Whether you're just attending or actually showcasing your product, trade shows are a way to get great exposure and some wind in your sail. Says Chang, "Trade shows give you a context, a way to meet people, and they can provide you with some really great resources because they have classes and workshops that you can take."