By Megan G.
For a long time, organic foods and natural products failed to reach the mainstream mindset, staying a niche market headed by ecological entrepreneurs for select groups of the environmentally-minded. Even today, one still hears snide jokes about the volley of grass-fed, hormone-free, biodegradable buzzwords peppering the packages of natural foods and products. However, in recent years a marked shift has occurred, and the demand of organic and natural items and services has shot up and into the mainstream. Being green no longer remains the business of corner stores, hipsters, and Kermit the Frog. Large corporations, as well, are seeing the world through mint-colored glasses.
On April 9th, 2014, Target jumped on the big, green bandwagon with a wholesome, “handpicked,” “made to matter” collection. The Made-to-Matter webpage features a compilation of 16 organic brands such as Burt’s Bees, Kashi, and ClifBar. Target, a master of making all types of practical products available in once place, is no stranger to green practices and community service—but now they have created their own natural and organic brand, “Simply Balanced,” officially joining this verdant market. Target’s move parallels one of their corporate competitors, the Kroger Company. Within the last year, Kroger has also introduced a unique line dubbed, “Simple Truth Organic”. A lot of “simply simple” ideas floating around this big business headspace, and even the packaging of both brands relies on easy, crisp color schemes and straightforward labels. Clean, simple, and green all seem to go hand-in-hand—and why not? The goal of both Target and Kroger’s go-green brands is to provide readily accessible natural, organic, and sustainable products to their customers, as well as sew their oats in the fertile, growing gardens of green marketing.
“Green” not only means the retail of natural and organic product, but also the practice of environmentally-conscious and fair business decisions. Consider the unstoppable affluence of Starbucks, a company that practices ethical sourcing, fair trade, and the implementation of greener practices in their stores. With a café and drive-thru on almost every corner, Starbucks shows that being green is obviously no deterrent to good business. Furthermore, nothing could be more mainstream than a love for Starbucks coffee. So what has caused this green market shift away from the niche? According to The Washington Post, going green speaks to the logos of business strategy, as well as the ethos of the planet. With the Earth’s population growing and its resources dwindling, developing smarter solutions in water management and food security is becoming both an ecological and commercial imperative—“the sustainability of the planet… bears directly on the sustainability of the company.” Save the planet, save your business. A New York Times article stated that, according to an Organic Trade Association study conducted in 2012, the organics industry yielded $31.5 billion in the United States’ annual sales, nearly quadrupling over the span of a decade. Estimates suggest that the market for green products and services reaches even $500 billion a year—no wonder corporations have decided to promote their own lines of green product!
As for the success of smaller businesses, Barbara Haumann of the Organic Trade Association claims that, while corporations such as Target and the Kroger Co. have decided to offer their own products in competition with the other brands, they are not stealing market shares from other retailers. The green market bean stalk apparently continues to grow rapidly enough for all to share. Small business Jacks can share the wealth with big business Giants.