Is there such a thing? “Junk organic food”? Or “organic junk food”?
I went to the latest Natural and Organic Show at ExCel London. Claiming to be “The Future of Health – Europe’s Favourite Natural Business Event” , with branches in London, Sweden and Hong Kong, I was expecting to find there a source of inspiration for our Box Scheme and, why not? some tasty organic food for my lunch.
Organisers did a very good job, by splitting the floor into three large areas – skin care, natural products and organic food. Lots of presentations in every area and cookery demonstrations using exhibited ingredients.
I started collecting samples and nibbling on tasters, as little was on sale, for the event was a trade show, rather than a consumer show, so everyone was exhibiting their ware to prospective customers, such as organic and health stores.
Raw chocolate was everywhere, a sign of a very fast moving trend, and probably –fierce competition by now. Energy bars – just as many. In every possible combination, portion and wrapping. Long gone are the days of straight muesli, dried fruit and loose seeds – these are all now crafted into little balls, bars and buttons. Anything to please the fussy little eaters.
Fruit and veg presented as crispy crisps, juice concentrate, truffles, powders, mixes and scented waters. The Cactus Water and Raw Potato Juice were among my day’s discoveries. Beetroot Powder was another one.
And what about Mushroom Coffee and Coconut Coffee for your breakfast? Or, perhaps, Turmeric Latte?
I was passing isle after isle after isle and in time I realised that there was no real food or drink at the show, to tease my mind and taste buds. Not a single piece of fresh fruit or vegetable. No bread. No cheeses. No meats. No beers. Apart from the various alternatives and free-from everything offers. Some sponsored Italian producers of wines and prosciutto were looking completely lost, as obviously nobody was interested in them.
I was looking for something to eat. And to drink. Nobody offered plain water anymore. It was all flavoured with super-duper exotic things. Or in form of organic real cola.
As producers of fresh organic fruit and veg, I was looking for competitors. For new business models, to measure them against ours, to learn and to get inspired from them.
I was also looking to see our long-term organic friends from Doves Farm, Riverford, Green & Black, Aston’s Bakery, but no such luck. We must all be out of fashion by now.
What is wrong with fresh beetroot? Why is everyone looking for powdered organic beetroot? And with spinach? Why do you need to sell it as a packaged soup and not as a leaf? Potatoes have become Potato Juice. Kale is now Kale Crisps. Apples are freeze-dried and vacuum cooked. Raspberries are only found in raw chocolate and strawberries –in coconut yoghurt.
All of this organic funk is very expensive. Yet, by being packed in minute containers, it fools the consumer into social affordability. And, importantly, every little piece of packaging will have a tower of health claims, all ticked: no palm fat, sweetened with natural cane sugar, gelatine free, gluten free, no artificial colours, no artificial flavours, soy free, dairy free, sugar free, suitable for vegans, vegetarians, school safe, real, raw, and so on and so forth. “Contains vegetables” was my favourite!
My raw organic vegetables fit all those claims, automatically. But what boxes can we tick on a raw unwrapped parsnip? What chance do we stand, as growers and retailers of fresh, uncooked, unwashed, unforced, and free from everything organic fruit and veg?
We could add several more, absolutely truthful claims: NO out of season ingredients, NO animal muck what-so-ever.
But will it sell? Or is the consumer now only looking for expensive poxy little foods that grandparents would not recognise? You tell me!