Scaling and mainsteaming – the ethical dilemas

Everyone with an interest or passion for a particular ethic around food (be it organic, fairtrade, vegetarian, whatever) is challenged with the issues that are almost inevitable when a niche business or sector gets bigger and then edges on mainstream.

One of those issues is the purchase of large and profitable independent food businesses by larger and more profitable entities with little or no core ethics.

This is more than a theoretical consideration as this study by Philip H. Howard on the US organic food sector shows.

This is a still from an 18 second animation which shows left to right the gradual absorbing of the key independent players in the sector into larger entities over 12 years 1995 to 2007.

Have a look at more detail here. For me a business absorbed into a larger company with no ethical core drops from my shopping list (Green & Black being a good example, I have no interest in supporting Kraft Foods)
/ keith

 

 

Rapunzel Naturkost

What they do

They manufacture a wide range (over 400) organic, vegetarian and fairtraded food products. They also have a food ingredients division in Germany and offer an own label manufacturing service.

Where they do it

Just over half of their products are manufactured in Germany where they also have the widest distribution. Outside of Germany there are 30 countries worldwide where their products are available.

Who are they

Set up by Joseph Wilhelm and Jennifer Vermeulen in 1974 they now employ over 300 people.

The ethical bit?

Clearly defined ethics are deeply routed in the business. They operate their own organic certification scheme (Hand in Hand) together with producer partners in many countries.

They have a clear and fascinating mission statement and goals covering the environment, staff and independence from banks and other financial institutions.

My thoughts

With a turnover of > €100M this business has successfully scaled while maintaining a rigorous set of criteria which guide its operations. The passion and personal ethics of 2 individuals has lead to a powerhouse of organic food production and I am in awe of that.

This is not a sexy brand and they do not “do” social media that I can see. It is a solid and reputable brand.

I am familiar with a number of their products which make their way onto the Irish market and I am going to look out for more now!

Links to more

http://www.rapunzel.de/uk/index.html

One World Award (Joseph is on the jury)

/ keith