As Americans work up an appetite for healthier meals, organic food sales have risen sharply — up 21 percent annually in recent years to nearly $17 billion in 2006, according to the Organic Trade Association. One restaurant and catering chain, Organic to Go, is looking to cash in on the intersection of the multibillion dollar quick-service restaurant industry and the burgeoning organic food trend. Organic to Go feeds students, travelers and suits looking for a quick bite that’s a step above cheeseburgers on the nutrition pyramid. Founded by start-up veteran Jason Brown, with a menu designed by cookbook author and former regional Slow Food movement leader Greg Atkinson, the chain of cafés opened in the Seattle area in 2005. It has quickly grown to more than 100 grab-and-go kiosks and restaurants on street corners, college campuses and airports up and down the West Coast. “We’re a very simple company,” Brown stresses. “We make delicious food that happens to be organic and natural.”

Organic to Go’s menu features Thai veggie wraps, yogurt parfaits with fruit and honey-granola, and more made-from-scratch entrées. The selection of food carries the USDA-organic certification and encompasses breakfast and lunch. Delivery and catering via rickshaw or hybrid van is also offered.

Revenues in 2007 are up more than 60 percent over the previous year, so Organic to Go’s dining future looks bright. And a recent survey by market research firm Harris Interactive found that more than 70 percent of the public believes organic food is healthier and safer for the environment. With only 7 percent of respondents saying they mostly buy organic, Organic to Go has barely gotten past the appetizers.

Story by Steven K. Lee. This article originally appeared in Plenty in February 2008.

Copyright Environ Press 2008.