Regional grocery chains seek “organic retailer” certification

In some mainstream grocery stores, organic options are shunted to the side, put in a sort of “Food for Freaks” section where only the bravest shoppers dare to tread. But increasingly, regional chains are getting certified as “organic retailers” and even — gasp — shelving organic food next to other edibles. Ohio-based Kroger, Minnesota-based Lunds, and Maine-based Hannaford Bros. have earned a government-backed seal of o-pproval; with organic food sales soaring from $6 billion in 2000 to $14 billion in 2005, such stores are eager to get in on the action. Certification requires on-site inspections and adherence to food-handling rules. “It’s just an extra set of eyes out there: a reassurance that they are meeting the standards, being the last link in the chain,” says David Abney, general manager of certifier Quality Assurance International. It’s also, says food-marketing publisher Kevin Griffin, “an opportunity for them to go after the Whole Foods customer that is serious about organics.” Food fight!