You won't catch John Wood on an episode of Criminal Minds but, thanks to the "Cereal Crimes" report from The Cornucopia Institute, John Woods has gone viral on the Internet as a "Cereal Killer."
Mr. Wood is the owner of the Green Grocer, based in R.I. He learned, to his great surprise, the word "Natural" meant something completely different to cereal manufacturers than to him. The Cornucopia report details the use of GMO grains and the presence of pesticide residues in some of the "Natural" products on his stores shelves. The brand at the heart of the Internet storm he created is Kashi. After reading the report Mr. Wood and his staff decided that they had no choice but to take the offending products off their store shelves.
"When we decided we couldn't keep it [the offending cereals] on the shelf, we also realized our customers are passionate about certain products that they really enjoy, and name-brand following can have a strong impact on their purchasing behavior. We decided we had to let people know why we didn't have it so that they didn't go somewhere else to buy it and potentially lose a long-term customer." Mr. Wood told the Natural Foods Merchandiser.
What Mr. Wood did was put a sign in the empty space formerly held by the Kashi brand in the Cereal Crimes report. It was a picture of that sign that went viral on Facebook and created a huge backlash from consumers.
"Had I known I was buying a product that was like all the others in the "normal" cereal aisle….I would have never purchased it and I certainly would not have paid the high prices! It disgusts me," wrote one consumer, on Kashi's Facebook page. "Yours is the only brand cereal I have bought for years. Not anymore! You are despicable. Everything you supposedly stand for is a lie," added another angry consumer. Scores of people flooded Kashi's Facebook page with their disbelief and angry comments.
At first Kashi tried to defend their stance with the usual big corp media spin and deflection. As the backlash grew they realized their attempts to either bury the story or deflect it were not fooling anyone and the momentum grew. The result? Kashi recently announced their intention to go non-GMO with their major product lines. Kashi's Rick Duran told Cornucopia staff that the company makes over 100 products but only four of them are currently organic.
So the message here is READ the label.
John Wood added that Kashi was not the only cereal product he removed from his shelves. Other "natural" cereals singled out in the Cornucopia report he pulled include Barbara's (Weetabix) and Bare Naked. He placed similar signs on the shelves explaining the actions.
In the NFM interview Mr. Wood gave out some advice to other retailers, "I would tell them not to underestimate the customer. Customers are hungrier for knowledge than most retailers probably give them credit for. Second, don't be afraid to separate yourself from the crowd. Anything we're selling can be found anywhere else whether it's a Whole Foods, online or at Walmart.
Whatever we're doing can be done somewhere else. It's how we do it that makes the huge difference. When we separate ourselves from our competition, big or small, by making a commitment to certain values, quality, ingredient list, whatever it may be-that's what's going to keep our customers coming back. We as retailers and the organic food movement can then become something of a greater value than anybody else can offer."
Hopefully more companies take note of this story.
Read more on this story www.cornucopia.org
Read John Wood's side of the story in the NFM news.
We encourage you to read the Cereal Crimes report yourself. Like John you too can make a difference.
This report explores the vast differences between organic cereal and granola products and so-called natural products, which contain ingredients grown on conventional farms where the use of toxic pesticides and genetically engineered organisms is widespread.
Their analysis reveals that "natural" products-using conventional ingredients-often are priced higher than equivalent organic products. This suggests that some companies are taking advantage of consumer confusion. The popular term for this is "greenwashing."
To find brands committed to sustainable agriculture, avoiding genetically engineered ingredients and supporting organic farmers, use the Cereal Scorecard.