Once again, the power of consumer dissatisfaction, social media and the Internet have gotten a company’s attention and brought about promised change. Kashi faced serious consumer backlash last month when loyal consumers of their products realized that not all of their offerings were free from genetically modified organisms (GMOs).  Yesterday, I received an email from Kashi about their “commitment to progressing positive change in the food system.”

 
Dear Kashi Community,
 
I’m writing to you today to personally share new news about our commitment to progressing positive change in the food system. 
 
Currently, less than 1% of cropland in the US is organic and about 70% of all processed food contains GMOs.  As one of the largest food brands in the natural and organic marketplace, we are in a unique position to make a sizeable, positive impact on the food system. That’s why we’re announcing a long-term initiative to produce significantly more organic and Non-GMO Project Verified foods.
 
By the end of 2014, all existing Kashi® GOLEAN cereals and Kashi® Chewy Granola Bars—which are our biggest offerings—will be Non-GMO Project Verified. Plus, beginning 2015, all new Kashi foods will contain at least 70% organic ingredients and be Non-GMO Project Verified as well.  Seven of our cereals already meet the Non-GMO Project Verification standard today.
 
This is good news for Kashi but hopefully better news for the food system as a whole.  Currently, it’s difficult for companies like Kashi to source enough ingredients that are organic and grown without using GMO. But with this commitment, we ensure more farmers make more organic and non-GMO crops accessible for everyone.
 
To us, our commitment is another step in progressing positive change. For 25 years we’ve been dedicated to making foods we feel good about, and we hope you’ll come along on our journey.
 
Sincerely,
David DeSouza
Kashi General Manager
 

There are several things I find interesting about this. The first is, as I mentioned above, that Kashi is listening to consumer complaints and pressure and pledging to make big changes. They’re doing it because of consumer desire, not government regulation. I’m sure there will be a lot of people who will cry, “too little too late,” but I don’t think that’s the right thing to do here. If we want companies to change, we have to be encouraging when they do so.

 

Another interesting thing about this announcement is that Kashi says they aren’t just going to change their products; they are also going to change our “food system as a whole.” Because of the volume of food the company produces, they anticipate that more farmers will need to create organic foods and Non-GMO foods to meet their demand. That’s something to keep an eye on to see if the company really can help create change in this way.

 

Finally, I find the rate at which they say they are going to make these changes ambitious. It would be ideal if the company could shut production down completely on the foods that contain GMOs and turn around tomorrow and start producing foods without GMOs, but that’s not possible. A two-year turn around for “all existing Kashi® GOLEAN cereals and Kashi® Chewy Granola Bars” to be Non-GMO Verified is, in the processed food world, very ambitious. Especially when they believe they’re going to have to convince additional farmers to change their farming methods to meet their ingredient needs.

 

I’ll be watching to see if Kashi can make good on its new commitments and applaud them if they are successful. What’s your take on Kashi’s commitment to “progressing positive change?” 

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