Education could reduce consumer confusion about hothouse, organic

12/14/2012 02:11:00 PM
Melissa Shipman

Suppliers have noticed a blurring of the lines between greenhouse-grown and organic produce, especially among consumers.

“In consumers’ minds, there is only conventional and organic, and we are neither,” said Helen Aquino, marketing manager at Village Farms International, Delta, British Columbia.

Aquino compares the need for more consumer education about greenhouse-grown products to the process of educating consumers about organic produce.

“It has taken almost two decades for consumers to really understand and embrace organic,” she said.

Another issue with educating consumers about greenhouse-grown products in that not all forms of protected agriculture are the same.

“All greenhouses aren’t created equal,” she said, referencing the company’s participation in greenhouse-grown certification.

“We have started using that (certified greenhouse-grown) logo on all our packaging, and we’re using social media to try to reach consumers,” she said.

Those methods take time.

Still, Aquino said she has seen consumers beginning to understand about greenhouse-grown products, thanks to education efforts.

Another way to help greenhouse-grown products stand out is to deliver exceptional quality and taste, she said.

“At the end of the day, consumers primarily want good flavor, and if we deliver that, we’ll be ahead,” she said.

Other companies also note blurring of the lines between greenhouse-grown and organic produce.

“With greenhouse-grown product, very rarely do you need pesticides and the fruit is very clean. You can look at a several greenhouse labels and it says pesticide-free,” said Jim Cathey, sales manager for Del Campo Supreme Inc., Nogales, Ariz.

Pesticide-free doesn’t necessarily mean organic, but consumers can sometimes be confused by those labels, and Cathey says there can be some debate on what organic really means, especially in regards to hydroponic growing methods.

There are requirements from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that are specifically in place to regulate organic hydroponic growing operations, and some companies participate in that program.

Other companies involved in protected agriculture are established organic growers.

Wholesum Family Farms grows organically in a mixture of coconut fiber and compost, so it doesn’t fit easily into hydroponic or outdoor-soil definitions.

Crisantes said the company prefers to promote its products as organic produce that is grown using sustainable methods instead of greenhouse-grown to reduce confusion.



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