Fairtrade, Healthy Food Startup Incubator and GMO

These 3 stories caught my eye recently as I revived my Flipboard Ethical Food magazine.

 Celebrating Isabel Uriarte, A Fair Trade Hero


She is a founder and one of the 1,458 members of the CECANOR cooperative. After earning the Fair Trade certification, the cooperative gained access to international markets, better prices and wages and the protections of Fair Trade standards. Check out the full piece on her here.

Fairtrade is not complex – reworking the share of the price of the end product to ensure that the growers are treated fairly – like equal human beings in the supply chain. This is an ongoing battle in almost every product category and involves little or no sacrifice in the developed consumers markets and massive improvements in the growing countries.

Matthew Corrin hopes to fuel the growth of likeminded food entrepreneurs

Screen Shot 2013-10-05 at 17.33.21

Love to see this in Europe (unless it already is?) – a healthy food startup incubator kicked off by a partnership between the founder of Freshii and a Toronto consulting firm. See the article I picked it up in here or click on the image above to go the incubator website.

Stunning Difference – GM V non GM corn grown side by side

Screen Shot 2013-10-05 at 17.37.21

From the study:

“It is not surprising that this analysis has been carried out independently; i.e., not by biotech companies. It was done by farmers themselves. The high level of glyphosate is bad enough. Scientific evidence on glyphosate accumulated over three decades documents miscarriages, birth defects, carcinogenesis, endocrine disruption, DNA damage, neurotoxicity, and toxicity to liver and kidney at levels well below recommended agricultural use (see our recent review [2]Why Glyphosate Should Be BannedSiS 56). The presence of formaldehyde – a genotoxic and neurotoxic poison at such enormous concentration – is totally unexpected.”

These results are scientifically valid and non-trivial. Worth reading for anyone still on the fence about GMO and its role in the future of food. Taken from this article on the ISIS website.


Wild And Slow – Wicklow 10th & 11th November 2012

One of the byeproducts of my time at TerraMadre last week was the pleasure of meeting Evan Doyle, proprietor of Brooklodge.

He is one of the Slow Food people helping to organise next weekends celebration of wild food which takes place in Macreddin village in Wicklow.

Looks like a great event for anyone who enjoys their food. The lineup of food stalls and tastings is complemented by a wide variety of workshops – all free to enter once you have paid the 5 euro daily charge to get in. You can download full workshop details here – WILDFOOD WORK SHOPS 2012 FINAL DETAILS.

Booking can be done via this form – WILDFOOD WORK SHOPS PRE-REG FORM2 2012

For me interesting ones would be:

Back to the Basics A workshop where Darina Allen, Ballymaloe, will focus in depth on the traditional methods of preserving as used by our grandparents for pickling, drying and potting that gave them tastes of summery fruit in jams well after the trees were bare, cured meats and fish in the darker months, and allowed them have vitamins and minerals while nature slept.

Blackberries and beyond. Ireland has 327,258 km of common Irish grass verges and hedgerows. In this workshop, Evan Doyle, Ed Hick and Biddy white Lennon will concentrate on what is available there for free, where to look for it, and when it is best harvested, using the Wild&Slow templates to bring participants through each season.

Much about Mushrooms. Guiding through six months of annual mushroom harvesting, Bill O’Dea, informs the workshop on the Top Ten Irish edible wild mushrooms, when to look for them and most importantly…where to find them.

This is a shot from the first Wild and Slow event in 2011

The event website is here.


Divine Chocolate – @divinechocolate

What They Do

Chocolate bars. That’s it for the moment – a focused brand

Where They Do It

Ghana is the home of the Cocoa beans and the UK is the primary consumer market. However they also have a US, Netherlands and Scandanavian presence. Manufacturing is carried out in the EU although I could not see where on their site.

Who Are They

Unusually (and great to see) 45% of the ownership sits with the producer coop in Ghana. The MD of Divine is Sophi Tranchell.

The Ethical Bit?

As you saw above the producer co-op owns 45% of the shares in Divine and is strongly represented on the board. That Fair Trade ethos is the dominant ethical focus of the business and other elements such as organic are touched on but are not a core driver.

My Thoughts

Love this business and enjoy their products. Will this scale much beyond its turnover of £12M? Possibly not – the focused approach sees it do what it does really well and the goals of the business maybe achieved within the current operation.

Their website is full of relevant content and really informative – check out the timeline here for example. So many ethical food businesses forget to be open and complete about their operations – not through maliciousness but by not understanding the importance of communications to a brand.

Links To More



Interview with MD – www.smarta.com/advice/general/sophi-tranchell-divine-chocolate

/ keith

UPDATE 4th November – Sophi Tranchell is one of the key speakers at a Social Enterprise Conference in Bristol on 10th November 2012 – details here.

Lyfe Kitchen, Brussels Sprouts based Fast Food @LYFEKitchen

What they do

Sustainable, socially responsible fast food.

Where they do it

LA is the location of their first branch. Top marks if you guessed that 🙂

Who are they

The polar opposite of hippies. Mike Roberts and Sidwell are an ex McDonald’s COO and an investment banker who sat down one day and decided to build an ethical fast food business which would scale.

The management team is chokka full of management capability and VP’s. If anyone can scale this crew can.

The ethical bit?

On the suppliers side this is from their website:

  • Look to serve organic foods whenever commercially viable
  • Monitor how quickly product arrives at LYFE Kitchen to guarantee freshness and flavor
  • Maintain that all meats must be antibiotic and hormone free
  • Ensure that all meats and chicken are Global Animal Partnership approved

My thoughts

It is always hard to compare a business like this with Rapunzel for example. The latter is clearly driven by personal ethics whereas Lyfe could be a positioning exercise chasing a market opportunity. However this Wired article does point to ethical leanings during Mike Roberts time in McDonalds so maybe.

One way or another if there have to be fast food chains then this one is nicely positioned to make the supply chain a lot more ethical than the norm.

Links to more





/ keith

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


One World Award (Joseph is on the jury)

/ keith

Appetisers – 2nd Sept 2012

NYT’s article and comments on investing into organic farms and farmers


The growth in various food niches


Carbon Neutral Chocolate sails into the UK


/ Keith

Companies on my To Blog About list

Going to keep a note of interesting and relevant companies/organisations/posts I come across here and pull from it for future posts. Suggestions very welcome in the comments.

Date Added & website

29/9/12 – http://www.granovita.co.uk/

29/9/12 – http://shop.redwoodfoods.eu/

29/9/12 – http://www.divinechocolate.com/default.aspx

17/9/12 – www.amyskitchen.com

9/9/12 – https://www.goodeggs.com/

2/9/12 – http://www.meltbutteryspread.com/

2/9/12 – http://www.veggiegrill.com/

1/9/12 – http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/VegNewsVeggieAwards2012

31/8/12 – http://www.rapunzel.de/uk/unternehmen.html (post here)

31/8/12 – http://www.triodos.com/en/about-triodos-bank/know-where-your-money-goes/results/?fs=2&cs=1

31/8/12 – http://www.newmediacaucus.org/html/journal/issues.php?f=papers&time=2009_winter&page=howard (post here)

31/8/12 – http://www.good.is/post/the-ethical-burrito-chipotle-makes-fast-food-nation-sustainable/

31/8/12 – http://www.farmplate.com/about-us

31/8/12 – http://www.foodethicscouncil.org/

/ Keith

Door To Door Organics @dtdOrganics

What they do

They connect organic farmers and good food producers with consumers in large cities and urban areas.

Where they do it

They started in 1997, they are US based and they service 5 areas right now:

Who are they

Good question. Their CEO is Chad Arnold (shown under) but while they appear to have a great reputation online I cannot find a mention anywhere of the founder(s) names. A shy bunch.

The ethical bit?

Their copy “As your advocate, we strive to buy directly from the farmer or producer. We also work to find food that is verified by third parties to provide an added level of assurance.”

On the same page they list 30 standards which they use to filter their producers.

My thoughts

I love these schemes. In 1990 we were the first Wolverhampton hub for Organic Roundabout,  a Community Supported Agriculture business out of Birmingham. In 1995 in Waterford we received a weekly box from a local organic farmer and when we moved to Kilkenny in 1997 we sourced another local organic box delivering farmer and we have been with him since.

As with many other alternatives to the traditional distribution system this is not the full solution but it is a strong part of it. Giving you a chance to talk directly to farmer producers, to appreciate the work and challenges, to share their passions and to eat seasonal, organic produced food.

This post was prompted by a US$2M investment into the business by a Colorado based VC who focus on sustainable and healthy lifestyle opportunities.

Links to more




UPDATE 31/8/12 – April 2012 article from the Guardian UK on similar schemes in France

/ Keith

Vegtoons @cartoonsaloon

This one is a small bit personal. It steps outside of the world of food producers and distribution and revisits the vegetarian ethos and how that is communicated into a wider audience.

A good friend of mine in Kilkenny – Tomm Moore of Cartoon Saloon (known best for his Oscar nominated Story of Kells) is working with Paul Young and Greg Singer (Dreamworks) to KickStart a new animated series promoting plant based diets – Vegtoons.

You can see more underneath and join in here.

UPDATE 31/8/12 – Initial $16k target reached with 1 day to go 🙂

/ Keith