Company finds organics niche in Atlanta market

03/21/2011 01:39:09 PM
Jim Offner

Organic fruit and vegetable purveyors say the category is taking hold all across the U.S.

That applies to Atlanta and the Southeast, said Dee Dee Digby, president of Forest Park, Ga.-based Destiny Organics, the biggest organic produce supplier on the Atlanta State Farmers Market.

“Organics are taking hold everywhere, and Atlanta is no exception,” Digby said.

Health concerns are the reason, Digby said.

“There are many reasons but the major ones are all of the studies continuing to come out concerning what pesticides and hormones are doing to us and to our children with one of the most recent being pesticides being found to cause some cancers in children,” she said. “Also, childhood obesity here in the South is at an all time high. Media is also leading the organic movement forward with movies like Food, Inc. and people as influential as Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama focusing so much on these issues.”

Tougher economic situations haven’t affected sales of organics, Digby noted.

“Sales of Organic food overall continue to grow, despite the recession. People are giving up other things before healthy food choices for themselves and their children,” she said. “The Farm to School movement is continuing to be strong despite the economic situation, as well.”

Spiking fuel prices also will affect the produce industry, she said.

“Just as it always affects the food business — one of the reasons we must continue to increase our food production locally,” Digby said.

Demand for the product from conventional retailers has increased, she added.

“Mainstream retailers are continuing to build their organic categories based on consumer demand,” she said. “The organic consumer will go elsewhere if full lines are not available, and this customer base is growing.”

Digby said organics work hand-in-hand with Georgia’s strong homegrown movement.

“The attendance that I see from farmers at conferences where I speak has grown substantially over the past five years,” she said. “Farmers are aware that it is not a fad and that growing organically and sustainably is viable for the future of their farms.”

Digby says her company appreciates its importance as Atlanta’s primary organic produce supplier.

“As such, we are sought out by retailers, co-ops, buying clubs, schools, hospitals and other businesses to supply their organic, all natural and local foods,” she said. “Our commitment to local farmers and producers has helped us lead the way in this state in supplying businesses and individuals with good healthy food.”

Other Atlanta-area suppliers are watching the category closely.

“I imagine, at some point, we’ll be forced into it down the road,” said Mike Jardina, president of J.J. Jardina Co. Inc., Atlanta. “We’re not really set up for it now, but we have some future plans.”



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