The Expanding Organic Grocery Scene

It's a great time to be an organic food shopper, whether you're new to organics or a veteran devotee.

It's a great time to be an organic food shopper, whether you're new to organics or a veteran devotee. Since 2002, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations for organic foods, which set production and handling standards that all food labeled "organic" must meet, went into effect, the organic food business has been booming. Growing concerns about toxic pesticides, inhumane treatment of livestock animals, E. coli outbreaks and mad cow disease continue to fuel the growth, as does people's desire to support a more eco-friendly food chain. (Next issue, we'll bring you an article about yet another reason to buy organic—the declining vitamin and mineral content of conventional produce.)

More and more supermarkets are expanding their organic sections and moving those products to more prominent store positions. Local food co-ops are featuring a wider range of products than ever before, and they are buying from local producers whenever they can. There are even growing chains of natural foods supermarkets: Whole Foods has 146 stores in 27 states and Canada, and Wild Oats has 101 locations in 25 states and Canada.

Food industry giants, including Mars and General Mills, have purchased smaller organic companies and introduced their organic brands to many mainstream shoppers, while additional small producers in this country, and many others, are starting new organic companies, often dedicated to artisan-style, high-quality organic production on a modest scale. In either case, everybody wins—more wholesome, flavorful organic products are being produced and sold, more land is being farmed sustainably and more livestock animals are being raised humanely.

Many of these new, premium organic products offer extraordinary tastes. A few months ago at Mother Earth News, we tasted several kinds of organic soybeans and discovered how much better black soybeans taste than the more-common yellow types. And our favorite cookie now is the Newman's Own Organics Fig Newman.

Some items are more expensive than standard fair, but you get what you pay for, right? Foods bringing that rare, homegrown flavor back into our favorite recipes are worth a premium price whether they're available in our supermarkets, online or at a local farm. Some of these products come from just down the road and others come from half-a-world away. Although we normally encourage you to buy as locally as you can, we've found that some of the topnotch imports remind us of how good our U.S. food can, and should, be.


A great example is the certified organic Bionaturae tomato paste we also tasted recently here at Mother’s office: It had the richest, sweetest tomato taste we've ever encountered short of homemade. According to the company, the paste is made from heirloom tomato varieties vine ripened and handpicked on a network of Tuscan family farms in Italy. The tomatoes are milled to an ultra-smooth consistency and packed in glass to preserve the fresh taste. This stuff is perfect with fresh herbs atop a dish of steaming pasta, or on a pizza crust ready for the oven, or for stirring into some soups and fish dishes. And like many European products, this paste has no added sodium, so the tomato flavor isn't overpowered by extra salt. Bionaturae also makes olive oil and fruit nectars, and we're eager to see if these products are as exceptional as the tomato paste.

Yet another example is South Carolina-based Anson Mills' whole-grain, cold-milled cornmeal, which we tested for our "Uncommon Corn" article. Anson's freshly ground, organic heirloom corn made a corn bread that we all agreed was the best we had ever tasted, with a rich corny flavor and pleasing chewy texture. It made us all eager to try growing and grinding our own cornmeal.

Look for These Organic Brands

You will find increasing numbers of organic products turning up on the shelves of your favorite markets—sometimes in a special organic food section, and sometimes right beside the conventional counterparts. The brands listed below offer organic products in the following categories. The next time you shop, be sure to try something new from these selections; we're betting you'll find some favorites.

Cascadian Farm
Green Mountain Coffee
New Harvest Coffee
Rice Dream
R.W. Knudsen
Sacred Grounds Organic Coffee
Walnut Acres
Yogi Tea Company

Canned Foods and Sauces
Annie's Homegrown
Eden Foods
Muir Glen
ShariAnn's Organics
Walnut Acres
Westbrae Natural

Arrowhead Mills
Cascadian Farm
Health Valley
Kashi Organic Promise
Nature's Path
Peace Cereal

Horizon Organic
Organic Valley
Stonyfield Farm

Fresh/Frozen Foods
Amy's Kitchen
Cascadian Farm
Earthbound Farm
Fairfield Farm Kitchens
Melissa's Organics
Willow Wind Organic Farms

Grains, Pasta, Beans and Rice
Annie's Homegrown
Anson Mills
Arrowhead Mills
Bob's Red Mill
King Arthur Flour

Laura's Lean Beef

Oils and Salad Dressings
Annie's Naturals
Girard's Salad Dressings
Spectrum Organic Products

Snacks and Sweets
Garden of Eatin'
Newman's Own Organics

Soy Foods
Melissa's Organics
Mori-Nu Organic Soy Products
Spring Creek Natural Foods

McFadden Farm
Morton & Bassett Spices
The Spice Hunter

E-mail or Phone Order
Alakef Coffee Roasters
Organic Kingdom
Shop Natural
Sun Organic Farm

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ENN would like to thank Mother Earth News for their permission to reprint this article.