Anyone who cares about food quality knows that for the past two decades, we consumers have been demanding more information on genetically modified products. To date, 64 governments (including the Nations of the European Union) have stepped in to require labeling of foods containing GMOs. This trend began in Europe after many food safety issues in the ‘90s (think mad cow disease). To be allowed on the shelf in these countries, products’ labels must clearly state whether or not they contain GMOs.
In general, the US has been slower to demand government action. At this rate, who knows how long it will take?
It may be that sweeping change in the USA will come first from the private sector. Customer demands for food transparency in terms of source, ingredients, and process are on the rise, with no end in sight.
Whole Foods Market has set a deadline of 2018 for all of its suppliers to label ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Whole Foods, H-E-B, and Trader Joe’s, among others, have said they will not sell GM salmon.
Many food makers – even those considered mainstream, such as Campbell’s, General Mills, and Kellogg’s – have started disclosing GMO status on their labels. Others, such as Hershey, Del Monte and Dannon, have switched their products over to non-GMO in response to customer demand.
At SASS, we are very excited about these changes, as consumers and as a company. As you may or may not have heard, last year we decided to take up the challenge and officially go non-GMO.
It makes sense because it has always been our priority to bring you, our customers, the wholesome, delicious products WE want to eat. We’ve been delighted to source fresh and local ingredients whenever possible.
Frankly, when we said, “Let’s GO! Non-GMO!,” we had no idea what we were getting into! Here are some of the challenges we face:
Cost– Believe it or not, the non-GMO label is not cheap. The certification comes with a steep initial price and then an annual fee. Other costs include the painstaking labor contacting suppliers, sourcing new ingredients, gathering documents, record keeping, communicating with representatives of FoodChain ID and The NonGMO Project) and the design and printing of new labels. Many small, local suppliers simply cannot afford the investment.
Conflicting Loyalties – Some of our beloved local suppliers are not able to make the leap yet, so we may have to buy some ingredients from much farther afield. And what is the environmental impact of that?
Sourcing Ingredients – Just finding certified non-GMO ingredients with compatible flavor in bulk sizes is sometimes challenging. Then there is the cost of the upgrade, including increased shipping costs.
Value to Our Customers – We’re banking on the belief that our customers feel like we do and are willing to pay more for a certified non-GMO product. Are you? Would you be willing to pay a dollar or two more for a bottle of SASS with the butterfly?
Despite all this, we’re more committed than ever.
And we want to share the story of this journey. We are doing this for two reasons. We like to think of you as family, and family supports one another during trying times. This journey is a challenging one, and we could use some cheerleaders. Also, we hope in some small way to encourage and advocate for other small companies going through the same transition. We want those companies to know they are not alone!
As we continue on our quest to obtain the coveted butterfly logo, we would like to welcome you, our SASS family on the journey. Stay posted on our progress and let us know your thoughts and ideas!