Suppliers see increasing demand for non-GMO ingredients

Earlier this year Supermarket News reported that non-GMO is a trend that will grow in consumer and food industry awareness in 2010. Based on a survey of suppliers of non-GMO ingredients, that prediction is proving to be accurate. Non-GMO suppliers see increasing demand and inquiries for their products from food manufacturers spurred by more consumer awareness of food issues such as genetically modified foods and the increasing visibility of the Non-GMO Project.

Non-GMO is important”

“Demand and interest for non-GMO is definitely increasing,” says Michele Lukowski, marketing manager at GloryBee Foods. “We’re getting input from our customers who are saying that non-GMO is important whether the product is organic or not.”

GloryBee will start highlighting products in its catalog that are verified non-GMO.

“We definitely see more interest in our conventional, non-GMO line,” says Prescott Bergh, marketing and sales director at Ciranda, which sells tapioca-based sweeteners including maltodextrins, syrups, and solids.

Bergh says some companies, including “big box retailers,” want to replace GM sweeteners such as corn syrup.

Rob Kirby, president, Nexcel Natural Ingredients, which sells non-GMO and organic edible oils, says non-GMO is “on everyone’s radar screen. Demand for non-GMO has been strong. When the economy went through challenges in 2008 and 2009, some companies scaled down from organic to non-GMO.”

“We have been seeing this awareness in varying forms,” says Roy Jurgens, president of Multiple Organics. “Some companies have simply noted that they are starting to look at non-GMO while others are actively requiring non-GMO-certified products.”

Gary Bartl, president of Austrade, Inc., sees steady demand for non-GMO ingredients, which include soy lecithin, allergen-free canola lecithin, and other emulsifiers and specialty ingredients such as crystalline fructose, corn starch, and corn milling products.

Domestic and international demand

Non-GMO demand is coming from both US domestic and international food companies. “Companies in Thailand, India, and the Middle East want non-GMO. A lot of countries don’t like GMOs,” says a representative with a large ingredient manufacturer.

Europe and Japan remain the strongest non-GMO markets.

“International requests (for non-GMO ingredients) continue to be steady and we’re getting more interest from US companies,” says Amy Nankivil, director of international sales, Northland Organic Foods, which sells non-GMO oils, lecithin, tocopherols, and phytosterols.

The types of companies wanting non-GMO ingredients include natural and organic food companies, food service companies, nutraceutical manufacturers, snack and beverage, confectionary, and even major food companies and retailers.

“We see not only manufacturers and processors purchasing non-GMO, but also bakeries, co-packers, and distributors,” Jurgens says.

Impact of Non-GMO Project and consumer education

Several suppliers point to the impact of the Non-GMO Project, which is verifying the non-GMO status of food and consumer products. The Non-GMO Project has grown rapidly in the past year from about 10 participating companies to more than 100.

“We have seen a steady increase within the domestic market and anticipate a significant increase over the next 12 months with awareness of Non-GMO Project verification,” says Jennifer Tesch, sales/marketing director at SK Food International, which sells several Non-GMO Project verified products. “Consumers will now begin to understand non-GMO, and with continued consumer education, we believe this (non-GMO) market will continue to grow.”

The Organic & Non-GMO Report and the Non-GMO Project have helped educate consumers, which has led to a strong marketplace for non-GMO,” says Kirby whose company sells a Non-GMO Project verified canola oil.

“When consumers see the Non-GMO Project seal, it will pique their interest and hopefully help educate them,” says Kim Davidson, a grain trader with Davidson Commodities, which specializes in non-GMO specialty grains.

Davidson Commodities is teaming with Pacific Northwest Farmers Cooperative to supply Non-GMO Project verified grains.

Northland’s Nankivil sees a connection between the increased demand for non-GMO and her company’s recent enrollment in the Non-GMO Project. “The fact that our non-GMO demand is going up is reflected in our joining the Non-GMO Project,” she says.

Suppliers say consumers are becoming more aware of how their food is produced and learning about—and not wanting—GMOs.

“People are more interested in what they are eating,” Kirby says. “Non-GMO and organic are not fads like the low carbohydrate diets a few years ago; they represent a fundamental shift toward healthier foods.”

(Copyright The Organic & Non-GMO Report, July/August 2010)