What's Hot in Organic Foods?

Do ever feel amazed at the fast pace of life in the year 2007 compared to life even just a decade ago? Information on demand, multitasking, fast food, and the ever-increasing pace of business can be downright overwhelming sometimes. The food industry is changing too. Ironically, as Americans speed up and become more worldly, we yearn for foods from a simpler time: foods produced by people we know, foods whose ingredients we can pronounce, high quality, lovingly prepared dishes with an eye toward environmental sustainability. Because consumers are demanding these things, the organics sector of the food industry is growing at an amazing rate and shows no signs of slowing down.

What Does Organic Mean?

Walk down the aisle of any large grocery store today. Nestled just around the corner from the processed foods full of dyes, chemicals and sugar we came to know and love as children, are the new organic, natural, good-for-you products. Most of them purport to be good for the environment and good for our bodies. With all the clamor about organics these days, deciding what to buy and how to cook can be confusing. It doesn't have to be.

Simply put, "organic" means grown or produced according to certain production standards. These days we're seeing organic cleaning products, cosmetics, even pet food. For food, the term organic means grown or produced without the use of chemicals or other artificial means. In this country, to be certified organic, products labeled as such must meet certain standards set by the USDA.

Technological advancement does not always translate into better quality of life. In an age of speed and information from all over the world fighting for our attention, this return to quality, cleanliness and local awareness is refreshing. In fact, an entire organization known as the Slow Food Movement has sprung up. While the Slow Food movement is not strictly organic, it enjoys many of the same philosophies. The Slow Food movement is based on the belief that part of the enjoyment of wonderful food involves acknowledging and nurturing the connections between what goes in our mouths and the health of our planet. Not only should food taste good, but it should be produced in a way that does no harm to the environment and food producers should receive fair compensation for their important work. The efforts of the Slow Food movement and increasing awareness about how the health our bodies is connected to the health of our earth contribute to the hot growth of the organic food movement. U.S. organic food sales totaled nearly $17 billion in 2006, representing approximately 3% of all retail sales of food and beverages, according to recent findings from the Organic Trade Association's 2007 Manufacturer Survey. That's no small (organic) peanuts!

It used to be that organic food was only for health fanatics or the very wealthy. Now with so many large chain grocery stores racing to meet the demands increasingly savvy consumers, the price of organic food is coming down and is more accessible for the average Joe. Everyone’s looking for ways to incorporate "organic" into their lives.

Jumping on the Organic Bandwagon: Careers

People just like you drive the phenomenal growth of the organic food industry. What does this growth mean? It means cool jobs that are good for the individual and good for the planet. As this industry continues to grow so will the need for:

• Farmers and food producers who are knowledgeable about organic production practices
• Creative chefs who are well-versed in local, nutritious, tasty fare
• Educators familiar with organic production standards
• Nutritionists/dieticians
• Food scientists
• Food writers
• Wholesale buyers of organic products
• Restaurant and hotel managers

Do you think you have what it takes to turn your of love good, wholesome food and your passion to make the world a healthier place into a career? Great! Passion is the key ingredient that drives the organic food industry. Next, you'll need a dollop of science (biology and chemistry), food history and culture, good written and spoken communication skills, marketing know-how, leadership skills, and of course, some basic culinary skills. As the organic food industry grows, culinary schools are rising to the occasion to educate students preparing to enter jobs that support this growth.
Gone are the days when a good job meant 9-5 drudgery in a windowless office, with a mass-produced hamburger for lunch. As the world speeds up and becomes smaller, the culinary trailblazers of the world are slowing down and paying attention to the long-term effects of what we eat. We're entering a new era: work that is meaningful to individuals and provides for the greater good of the community. The organic food industry is part of this new era.

Care to jump on the culinary bandwagon?

Related Stories:
Summer Food Trends: What’s Hot on the Culinary Scene
Culinary Tourism – Growing Trend in the Food and Travel Industry
Foraging for Food Trends: Sustainables and Organics on the Menu in 2007

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