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Natural products: Capturing the ‘ReGenZerative’ moment

How the Gen Z, Y and As are redefining expectations, and shaping how and where our food is sourced.

We are all witnessing, and many of us are participating in, a profound new ecologically-rooted imperative surfacing throughout our natural products industry, but especially in clothing, body care, foods, and supplements—all categories of products that people put in or on their bodies. A new generation of young activists around the world is giving this movement fresh urgency.

How such products are grown and made, where they come from, whether they add to harmful greenhouse gases in the air, to micro-plastics in the ocean, or to eco-social injustice on farms and in factories — in other words, whether they are fundamentally sustainable in an egalitarian society worth young people’s aspirations—have become crucial concerns driving their lifestyle decisions, driving the content of their highly empowered social media, and how they deploy their purchasing power. Just look, for example, what Greta Thunberg and her 10 million followers have achieved in just 100 weeks since she sat alone in front of the Swedish Parliament with her simple school strike placard.

Or what Jamie Margolin, Leah Thomas, Diandra Marizet, Isaias Hernandez and hundreds (if not thousands) of media-savvy eco-activists around the globe are doing right now, during a global COVID pandemic, to inform their peers (and their peers’ parents) about empowering change at the intersection between climate change and environmental justice. In this impassioned movement, their voices are explicitly linking the plight of fragile/threatened ecosystems and the impacts we make as consumers and stakeholders to all people and not just privileged enclaves. They will not stop driving home the message that aligning our economics and politics to achieve widely positive eco-social impacts must prevail, or there is no real future worth sustaining. 

They are organising. They mean business. Most of them are only starting out in their public or professional lives—many of them are still teenagers, but yet savvy social media mavens—in changing the criteria by which leading companies evaluate, source, produce, and distribute the essentials we all rely upon for our wellness: water, food, clothing, shelter, energy, mobility. Forward-looking companies as large as Danone and as cutting edge as Tesla are listening and responding.

2020 has shown just how fragile our supply chains can be, how vulnerable our economy is and how a changing climate are driving us to make increasingly mindful decisions and how we live our lives. Many educated, informed, and empowered young people are seizing the opportunity to foment change now, not when they are ‘established’ in careers as legislators, industry heads, and technocrats. No way. Just search #intersectionalenvironmentist on IG for a taste of what’s coming.

Instead of resisting, companies of all stripes in the natural products world—who of course pride ourselves on helping people look, feel, move, eat, breathe, and sleep better, naturally—should embrace and run towards this new paradigm.

Our industry—the natural products industry—is a genuine leader in health and wellness-based products, and we have a powerful ability to reach back up the supply chain and require environmentally sound production processes while reaching down the supply chain to require equally sound processing, packaging, and distribution practices. Our industry innovates, educates, motivates, and inspires change and this change, starting as ripples, soon become waves throughout mainstream agriculture and horticulture and the supply chains they feed.

Whether it is alerting farmers and consumers about how ubiquitous glyphosate is in our foods, or demanding rigorous sustainability, traceability, and welfare practices, or how a plant-based diet can be transformative to one’s wellness and longevity: our industry has an enormous capacity to lead and shape key production practices and supply chains for the future. All of us can contribute to these efforts. We are aligned in our values, from soil health to human health, and environmental health to planetary welfare. We have a duty of care to walk the walk.

In that spirit, Natures Crops started out nearly 20 years ago to find the richest, most biologically-advanced plant-derived source of omegas. One that could be grown by independent farmers as an alternative to commodity oilseed crops and as part of a wider soil biodiversity enhancement regime, including organic cultivation. One that could be (and now is) grown regeneratively, giving back more to the soil, pollinators, earthworms, and rural landscape’s resilience than it takes to produce. Ahiflower oil is the result of that vision.

Grown today in the UK on thousands of acres, Natures Crops’ vision and aspiration for Ahiflower is one day to grow over one million acres of this omega-rich dietary oil in the Northern and Southern hemispheres, support farmland biodiversity, and the rural landscape well into the 22nd century. Our hope is that some of today’s Gen Z activists will still be thriving then, looking back with pride and seeing the regenerated, healthier world their activism instigated. In our own way, Ahiflower represents a humble, resilient symbol of hope and yet also a tangible contribution towards marine ecosystem recovery, as more people choose plant-based over wild-harvested forage fish for omega nutritional benefits.

Andrew Hebard is founder and CEO at Natures Crops International. Register for the Vitafoods Virtual Expo to tune into Andrew's session on sourcing sustainable plant-based omega-3s within the Omega-3 micro community. 

Natures Crops already has proven in published human clinical trials that consuming Ahiflower oil supplies all the essential omegas a person needs for optimal wellness. If enough people adopt lifestyles and habits of aligned personal and planetary wellness and make mindful decisions about plant-based solutions like Ahiflower, then those of us who committed their careers to discovering and making innovative plant extracts available will have done a good thing. It’s a small legacy, but one we are proud to leave.

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