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Selling the Deal

Consumer demand for certification labels beyond organic is on the rise

Linda Haynes wanted to give customers extra assurance that her stone-ground whole grain breads really did contain whole grains. In 2008, her Toronto bakery became the first to use the bilingual Canadian Whole Grain stamp. Today, five Ace breads bear the logo, verifying they contain significant amounts of whole grain. “There’s real ambiguity in the marketplace,” says Haynes, founder of Ace Bakery. “A stamp gives a level of comfort.”

Thee Whole Grain Stamp is one of three third-party certification seals hitting a tipping point. The others are Fair Trade and Non-GMO Project. According to SPINS, a market research and consulting firm for the natural products industry, U.S. sales in the retail channels for natural and conventional in 2010 showed a 13.3 per cent increase for Whole Grain Council–certified products; 16.6 per cent for Fair Trade USA–certified goods; and a stunning 25.3 per cent for Non-GMO Project–verified products.

The picture in Canada isn’t too different. Michael Zelmer of Fairtrade Canada says 10 years ago fair trade products were difficult to find. “Now you’d be hard-pressed to find a store that doesn’t have a fair trade product in it.”

New to shelves is the Non-GMO Project mark. Co-founder of the initiative was Toronto’s the Big Carrot Natural Food Market, which has long had a non-GMO purchasing policy. The move was prompted by customers, says Patrick Conner, the Big Carrot’s spokesman. Many were afraid that the products had been genetically modified “with no labelling and little apparent oversight from regulators,” Conner says.

In a crowded market, a seal becomes a point of difference on a product. “It’s a little extra for the consumer,” Haynes says.

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