Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend my first LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) Forum in Boulder. It was an informative, inspirational and action-packed couple of days, reminding me why I’m so passionate about this industry. A few highlights:
- Steve French and Gwynne Rogers from the Natural Marketing Institute gave an informative talk on the latest consumer trends. A key takeaway was that while recent economic challenges have increased most consumers’ price sensitivity, committment to healthy lifestyles and healthy foods hasn’t changed.
- An all-star panel discussed GMO Awareness in our food, including UNFI founder Michael Funk, Whole Foods SVP Michael Besancon, and Silk GM Craig Shiesley. This lively discussion was highlighted by Shiesley’s announcement that all Silk beverage products have been officially verified by the Non-GMO Project.
- Author Dan Millman gave an inspirational talk regarding his latest book, The Four Purposes of Life, in which he shared some valuable life lessons. These included: (1) failure is a stepping stone towards learning, (2) breakthroughs come after our most difficult periods, and (3) lessons tend to repeat themselves until we learn them.
LOHAS Forum leader Ted Ning does an excellent job pulling together a varied panel of mind-opening presenters, and playing emcee. I left LOHAS inspired to continue working to make a difference, proud to be a part of WhiteWave, and looking forward to next year’s conference.
At WhiteWave Foods, our Horizon Organic and Silk brands have been leaders in the natural and organic community from the outset. We helped create new food categories. We fought for the creation of organic standards and more recently fought to make them stronger.
Because we remain committed to this mission, we were disappointed – but not surprised – to see our people, our brands and our company falsely attacked in a new online video. Disappointed because of the misinformation included in it – not surprised, because WhiteWave, Horizon and Silk have been the target of false and misleading attacks before. There’s nothing new here.
We’re a $1.6 billion business and proud of it. Our practices translate into better livelihoods for the organic dairy farmers who supply our milk and for the North American growers who supply all of our soybeans for Silk. Our practices mean more land farmed organically or without the use of GMOs and better choices for everyone who shops at the dairy case.
Seventy-five percent of the food we make is either organic or non-genetically-modified and in the spirit of continual improvement we are looking at what it would take to bring other pieces of our product portfolio in line with these standards. Our products are clearly labeled so people can choose what they feel is best for them, their kids and loved ones.
Some of the things I’ve been most proud of since WhiteWave Foods was formed in 2004, is that we have more than doubled the number of family farmers who supply milk for Horizon Organic. Today, our community of organic farmers is 600 and growing, and they supply 95% of our organic milk. Two company-owned dairies, one in Maryland and one in Idaho, supply the other 5 percent. See what our Idaho dairy looks like.
Our Silk brand achieved a sustainability milestone recently. All of our Silk beverages (soymilk, almondmilk and coconutmilk) have been verified by the Non-GMO Project’s Product Verification Process. Silk has been non-GMO from the very start, and now we have third-party verification to make it official. We will continue to support the good work of the Non-GMO Project and we continue to offer both organic and natural (non-GMO) soymilk options. For those who prefer organic, we’re proud that our organic product line is the largest organic soymilk brand in the United States. We buy all of our soybeans from North American growers. If you’d like to find out where the beans in your Silk soymilk were grown, you can do that right here where we trace all of our soybeans down to the county level.
What about the 25 percent of our products that are not organic or non-GMO? We’re proud of those products too. We license the Land O’Lakes brand to make half & half, heavy whipping cream and aerosol whipped topping and the milk in all of these products is rBST-free. All of those products were the first nationally-available r-BST-free products in their respective categories.
In 2009 our International Delight brand reduced its packaging carbon footprint by 30 percent, and most recently introduced another sustainable packing innovation that positively impacts the way we package our portion control creamers. International Delight also recently launched a new line of coffee creamers that are made from real cream.
If we’ve piqued your interest and you’d like to get the facts, please read more about us here at The Grazing Mind. If you want to know more about where we stand on various issues:
· Our position on Genetically Engineered Foods
· The DHA Omega 3 we use in our Horizon Organic products
· Horizon Organic Standards of Care
· Silk’s Soybean Sourcing Program with Conservation International
We know we’re not perfect, we’ve never claimed to be nor do we think we ever will be. And our critics appear to be steadfast about reminding us of this day after day.
The one thing everyone here at WhiteWave Foods can be however, is committed to doing things better and having the courage and conviction to grow and learn from our achievements as well as our mistakes. What we love about being a food company that believes in making responsibly produced food is that our work is never done. Ever.
This week the USDA officially bid adieu to the Food Guide Pyramid and unveiled a new symbol of healthy eating called MyPlate. It’s designed to be an easy-to-understand visual to help Americans make the key messages of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines a reality in their daily meals.
The Food Guide Pyramid was originally conceived in 1992 and was not aging particularly gracefully as a nutrition education tool so most nutrition professionals including me were not sad to see it go. (For a trip down memory lane, check out this collection of previous editions of the Pyramid and other icons).
My take on MyPlate? A big step in the right direction. We eat off of plates, not pyramids, so this is a much easier way to visualize what constitutes a healthy meal. The simplicity of the icon is key given that many consumers are increasingly overwhelmed with conflicting health and nutrition advice. It’s much less important how many spears of broccoli or orange slices constitute a serving; just make about half your plate fruits & veggies and you’re good. I’m also a fan of the depiction of a more general “protein” group – protein is more than just meat and the plate recommends plant-based sources of protein like beans, peas and soy in addition to meat, poultry and seafood.
Of course, there’s room for improvement. It’s not immediately obvious where many common foods fit into MyPlate – for example soymilk (dairy) or nuts (protein). Mixed foods like burritos, sandwiches and pizza also present a challenge, and many people will need guidance on just how big their plates should be. As a general guide though, I think it works. The plate alone is not designed to be the end-all, be-all healthy eating solution; rather it’s the symbol of a much larger consumer nutrition education campaign that will be unveiled over the coming months by USDA and other partners, so stay tuned!
What are your thoughts? Is MyPlate a more useful guide to illustrate healthy eating than MyPyramid?