The environment has become a very hot topic these days, especially among parents who want to protect their children’s health and the world they’ll be inheriting. Parents like Amell-Nash are propelling a surge in organic baby food sales, and that has prompted more companies to either join or expand their offerings in the sector.
Organic food still accounts for a tiny portion of the overall baby food market, but it is definitely growing. Whole Foods Market Inc. said it has tripled the space allotted to organic baby products in the last five years. Last year, baby food institution Gerber Products Co. rebranded and broadened its organic line, while Abbott Laboratories introduced an organic version of its Similac baby formula.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture inspects food producers to ensure they meet its standards for organic products. They include banning the use of conventional pesticides, fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge for produce, and antibiotics or growth hormones for animals.
Organic baby food sales soared 21.6 percent to $116 million in the 52 weeks ended Feb. 24, after jumping 16.4 percent a year earlier, according to The Nielsen Company. Meanwhile, overall baby food sales rose 3.1 percent to $3.7 billion in the same period, after being essentially flat a year earlier. The data was gleaned from U.S. grocery, drug and mass market retailers, excluding Wal-Mart.
Gerber Products replaced its Tender Harvest brand last year with a line called Gerber Organics and added products such as cereals, juice and food for toddlers.
Doctors said parents shouldn’t feel guilty if they can’t afford the extra expense. The USDA doesn’t claim that organic food is safer or more nutritious than conventionally produced food, and the American Academy of Pediatrics has no official stance on subject.
Dr. Jatinder Bhatia, chief of neonatology at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta and a member of the pediatrics academy’s committee on nutrition, said there is no evidence that organic baby food is better or safer.
Raisa Lilling uses organic food in meals she prepares for her daughter Elliana because it is less expensive than buying pre-made products. She notes Elliana hasn’t had many of the stomach problems and ear infections common in other infants.
Raisa is not alone. Many parents believe that feeding their children organic food had led to less trips to the pediatrician for common illnesses.
I find it hard to believe that there is no evidence that organic food is better or safer than normal fruits and veggies grown with chemicals and pesticides. Sometimes you wonder if professionals stay safe in their assessments in order to not create extra controversy.
Price still remains the sticking point for parents. Organic foods can be 20-50% higher in price.
Producers say that adhering to the USDA regulations makes organic foods cost more but parents are willing to pay the difference.