Is sourcing natural and organic products from overseas still viable?

Apr 5, 2022

International supply-chain issues are forcing natural and organic retailers to look closer at sourcing local products.

Although the supply-chain problem that has arisen in the wake of the pandemic isn’t unique to the natural and organic sector, we have been impacted more dramatically than just about any other part of the goods economy.

Our broad reliance on imports has made us particularly vulnerable. And, because our sector consists of mostly small, undiversified businesses, the shocks have been harder to absorb.

Worse, the big-picture issues that arose almost two years ago (labour shortages, clogged transport routes) have not yet gone away, resulting in ever-higher prices.

“The cost of shipping a container has increased by 300-400 per cent over the past 12 months,” says Marcos Morastico, Head of Supply Chain Operations at Honest to Goodness, which supplies retail and wholesale. “The situation is still very concerning.”

shipping containers

At the same time, consumers are increasingly expressing interest in locally sourced products. “Some are now saying they’d prefer a local natural product over an imported organic one,” says Honest to Goodness Founder Karen Ward.

She notes that recently introduced local products, such as sustainably grown flours by Wholegrain Milling, have been immediately successful.

Trust is an important ingredient

All of this begs the question: is it time for an industry-wide switch to locally sourced natural and organic products? Not necessarily. As Ward points out: “Some products are best and more sustainably grown in other parts of the world.”

That’s particularly true of seasonal agricultural products. Using extra resources to produce these out of season would be at odds with the ethos of the sector.

local grown

Ward says it’s time consumers understood that certain imported products that arrive by sea have smaller carbon footprints than they would if they were produced here.

Consumers should also keep in mind the international producers. Says Ward: “This kind of trade supports developing communities around the world.” She believes these are good reasons to persevere with some imported products, even if doing so might be more difficult and expensive in the short term.

At the same time, it could be sensible to start conversations with your customers about this complex and nuanced situation. Ward says doing so has helped Honest to Goodness weather the recent storm.

“Our customers know that what we put in our range goes through a variety of filters,” she says. “They trust that we have done a lot of the groundwork for them.”

Walk the show floor and discover a range of different local businesses and suppliers at Naturally Good this 6-7 June 2022 at the ICC Sydney.

Register free to attend here.

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