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The 'Dirty Dozen': how to position your produce, cut costs, and create more value

By Katya Baxter, Nutritionist, MenuMax.com

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has recently released the 2011 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, designed to inform consumers on total pesticide loads found in conventionally grown produce. Many have come to know the list as the ‘Dirty Dozen’.

Here is a quick re-cap:

This year apples have moved from the #3 spot to #1, with 98% of samples containing pesticides. Among other biggest offenders are celery and strawberries, followed by peaches, spinach, imported nectarines and grapes, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, domestic blueberries, lettuce, kale and collard greens.

This report is not to be taken lightly especially because there are several alarming details about pesticides and the produce treated with them:

  • Many chemicals being used have not been approved for safe use;
  • Pesticide treated produce tends to retain contamination even when washed;
  • Exposure to pesticides has been linked to a number of health problems such as birth defects, neurological disorders, infertility, and certain types of cancer.

The ill effects of these heavily sprayed chemicals are obvious, but in the light of higher prices and staggering economy, organic products often seem to be cost-prohibitive. There are, however, other options, and one of them is proper positioning.

When positioned well on a menu, organic produce offers several key benefits.

Let’s take a look at what happens when you choose one organic ingredient and make it the star of the plate:

  1. You minimize costs by simply focusing on a single organic ingredient. There is no need to buy everything organic. The EWG site lists conventionally grown produce that is safe to eat
  2. You enhance your value proposition – salad with organic greens, or apple pie made with organic apples, or organic apple slices for kids are now perceived to offer greater value
  3. You can comfortably raise your price point

As an operator or as a chef, it is your goal to provide good quality food and good value to your customers. When you offer organic produce that has obvious benefits (especially when we are talking about kids menus), you have a win-win situation. You show your customers you care about them and about the quality of your product. They get more value, and you get more business.

How can you go wrong?

Check out one of my previous posts where I provide suggestions on how to keep your produce costs under control.

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