For consistently healthy, conscientious products, try these 14 sustainable food companies—selected for their health, environmental and social attributes.
Shopping for healthy, responsibly produced food can be a challenge. From confusing labels and long lists of complex ingredients to loose government regulation, identifying the foods that are truly good for our families and the environment can be a tricky proposition. Some companies, however, have made their business out of offering reliably healthy products that prioritize the health of their customers, their producers and the environment. In looking to identify such sustainable food companies, we partnered with the folks at GoodGuide, an organization that rates hundreds of companies on their health, sustainability and social attributes. We asked GoodGuide to offer us their top picks for national food companies that offer a wide range of products—focusing on those that offer healthy items and avoiding companies owned by larger parent companies that may not be doing as much good. This time, we aimed to include a wide range of products—in the future, we plan to offer more specific lists of companies that offer healthy foods in certain categories. Don’t see one of your favorite sustainable food companies on this list? Have a food category you’d like to see covered? Email us your thoughts at email@example.com.
Overview: A family-owned and operated coffee-roasting company in the Pacific Northwest, Grounds for Change is committed to providing a sustainably, fairly produced product that benefits the environment, its farmers and its consumers. The company’s mission is “to support social equity and environmental sustainability through fair trade, organic, shade-grown coffee.”
Health: Certified organic; grown by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and conservation
Environment: Purchases 100 percent renewable energy for facilities; offsets 100 percent of nonrenewable energy used in business operations and transportation; uses 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper; donates jute coffee bags to local organic farms for use in erosion control; a percentage of profits goes toward the Northwest Shade Coffee Campaign, Save Our Wild Salmon and CarbonFund.org; shade-grown coffee prevents the clear-cutting of forest
Social: Fair trade certified, meaning products are grown by farmers who receive a fair price for their harvest, work under safe working conditions, and are able to invest in social and business development projects such as scholarship programs and health- care services
Products: Organic, shade-grown, fair trade coffee; website also offers fair trade, organic tea and chocolate
Overview: Member-owned co-op Frontier Natural Products prides itself on its values of integrity, social responsibility and openness, as well as its support of organic agriculture, fair dealings with small suppliers, and community and environmental programs.
Health: USDA certified organic; 95 percent non-GMO (genetically modified organism) ingredients; offers gluten-free products
Environment: Offsets 100 percent of electrical energy with renewable energy credits; offers carbon-neutral shipping
Social: Fair trade certified; full ingredient disclosure; founded the Well Earth sustainable sourcing program that evaluates potential suppliers based on worker safety and fair treatment, sustainable growing and production practices, food safety and quality, and environmental and community impact
Products: Bulk herbs, spices and teas; dips, dressings and seasonings; baking flavors and extracts; soups and pasta sauces; drink mixes; dried fruits and vegetables
Overview: Numi Organic Tea was founded by a brother-sister duo looking to introduce exotic, premium organic and fair trade teas to the U.S. market. The company is rooted in the principle of creating a healthful product that nurtures people and honors the planet.
Health: USDA certified organic; made with 100 percent herbs, fruits, flowers and spices; no artificial flavorings or fragrances
Environment: Production facility powered by solar energy; purchases renewable energy credits to offset emissions from supply chain; outer packaging made from 85 percent post-consumer waste and soy-based inks; tea bags made from biodegradable filter paper; no use of plastic shrink wrap
Social: Uses fair trade-certified ingredients for half of its blends and 80 percent of its raw ingredients; Fair Labor Practices-certified; works with Community Gatepath, an organization that employs disabled adults, to package assorted boxes and gift packs
Products: Tea bags, loose leaf, iced and flowering teas
Overview: A farmer-owned cooperative, Organic Valley was founded in 1988 to support rural communities and protect the health of family farms through organic agriculture. The cooperative’s 1,687 family farms produce an array of meat and dairy products.
Health: USDA certified organic; does not use synthetic hormones; antibiotics only used as a last resort for suffering animals if holistic treatments don’t work; non-GMO ingredients
Environment: Researches and promotes on-farm renewable energy projects; cooperative model of production allows food to be sold closer to the farm where it was produced, requiring less energy to ship food long distances
Social: Practices humane treatment of all animals; builds stronger local economies by promoting family farms and locally produced food
Products: Dairy products such as milk, yogurt, butter and cheese; eggs; juice; beef, chicken, pork and turkey products
Overview: Family-owned and operated Lundberg Family Farms uses eco-friendly farming methods to produce a variety of rice and rice products.
Health: Certified organic by the California Certified Organic Farmers; non-GMO ingredients/member of the Non-GMO Project; offers gluten-free products
Environment: Powers 20 percent of energy needs through solar energy; partners with Renewable Choice Energy in Colorado to install wind farms to offset conventional energy use
Social: Award-winner for “Top Small Workplaces”; rescues thousands of mallard duck eggs from fields before harvesting to preserve local wildlife
Products: Rice, rice cakes and chips, risotto, couscous, pasta, syrup, flour, cereal
Overview: Founded by a fisherman with more than 20 years’ experience of wild fishing in Alaska, Vital Choice Seafood offers customers sustainably harvested wild seafood products.
Health: All seafood products free of antibiotics, pesticides, synthetic coloring agents and GMOs commonly used in fish farms; wild salmon provides four times more vitamin D than farmed salmon and is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids
Environment: Wild fisheries certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council and the State of Alaska; offsets shipping emissions by financing the construction of renewable energy projects; CubeCycle program allows for recycling of EPS foam shipping containers
Social: Contributes a portion of net profits to organizations such as Healthy Child Healthy World and the Natural Resources Defense Council that are devoted to improving the health and well-being of people and our planet
Products: Wild-harvested salmon, white fish, shellfish; canned seafood; smoked fish; omega-3 supplements; organic nuts, dried fruits, oils, vinegars and dark chocolate; seasonings; tea; all products only available for sale online
Overview: A “fiercely independent” family company based in British Columbia with three distribution centers in North America, Nature’s Path’s guiding principle is “always leave the soil better than you found it.”
Health: Committed to using quality ingredients to make healthy, vegetarian and vegan foods that contain a wide variety of whole grains; includes a number of gluten-free items; non-GMO ingredients
Environment: Near-zero-waste headquarters include a rooftop garden, a rainwater harvesting system and an on-site composting facility; this year, donated $500,000 to the campaign to label genetically engineered food products; buys non-organic land in order to convert it to organic farms
Social: Provides employee grants for education, energy-efficiency and wellness activities; sponsors urban gardening, environmental education and preservation programs
Products: Organic granola, cereals, breakfast bars, frozen breakfasts, baking mixes and sprouted grain breads
Overview: In addition to sustaining its business and brands, Clif Bar and Company’s “5 Aspirations” include sustaining its community, its employees and the planet.
Health: Nutritious ingredients are combined carefully to create useful foods that either nourish, energize, hydrate or provide an excellent source of fiber or protein
Environment: Approximately 70 percent of ingredients are organic, with plans to be 80 percent organic by 2015; corporate mission includes reducing carbon footprint and building a supply chain that connects more directly with farmers
Social: After seven years with the company, employees earn six-week paid sabbatical; “holistic wellness program” includes financial, physical and mental wellness initiatives, free or affordable for all employees
Products: Wide range of nutritious energy bars, protein bites, drink mixes, children’s fruit snacks, energy chews and gels
Overview: Created by two parents who believed their baby should have healthier and more delicious food options, Ella’s Kitchen makes 100 percent organic food for babies and kids.
Health: Wide range of convenient products free of excess preservatives and additives; appropriate for various stages of development; offers gluten-free, lactose-free and vegetarian foods
Environment: Uses Forest Stewardship Council-certified cardboard and recycled paper; writes sustainability requirements into supplier contracts; independent audit of product “pouch” packaging found they had less environmental impact in manufacture, transportation and end-of-life than plastic, glass or Tetra Pak
Social: Donates food to hungry families through community charities; partners with Celiac Disease Foundation; donates food, garden seeds, printer cartridges, medicine, books, toys, clothing and bedding to the Kasisi Children’s Home in Zambia
Products: Baby and children’s food products including gluten-free, lactose-free and vegetarian options
Overview: Created in 1993 by Nell Newman as a division of her father’s philanthropic food company, Newman’s Own Organics aims to offer organic, healthy snack foods.
Health: Organic, non-GMO versions of popular snack foods; free of refined oils and trans fats
Environment: Sources ingredients from organic farms certified by Oregon Tilth, supports minimizing pollution, the depletion of nonrenewable resources and hazards to water and air quality
Social: Generates money for Newman’s Own Foundation, which has given more than $200 million to thousands of charities worldwide since 1982
Products: Organic pretzels, chocolate bars, cookies, snack cakes, popcorn, olive oil, vinegar, coffee, dried fruit, pet food and tea
Overview: The oldest natural and organic food company in North America and the largest independent manufacturer of dry grocery organic foods, Eden Organic is rooted in Michigan and buys all of its food directly from farmers, most within a few hundred miles of its home base.
Health: Committed to sourcing locally grown, organic and non-GMO foods; president Michael Potter one of 11 governing members of the Non-GMO Project’s board of directors; offers canned foods not lined with the potentially dangerous chemical BPA (bisphenol-A); irradiation-free
Environment: Buys all organic, mostly locally grown food; LEED Gold-certified manufacturing facility; ecologically designed trucks; all pallet wrap recycled; biodegradable packaging materials; no pesticides, fertilizers or weed killers used anywhere on Eden Organic grounds; pasta boxed in 100 percent recycled paperboard; Tetra Pak cartons recyclable and made from sustainable forests; marketing materials printed on recycled paper; tracks environmental impact of its food upstream and downstream
Social: Independently owned company that supports local farmers and food producers; healthy, top-quality working facilities
Products: All organic; whole grains and whole grain flours; dried fruits, nuts, seeds and snacks; spices and herbs; BPA-free canned beans; dry beans; oils and vinegars; snack foods; teas; canned tomatoes and sauerkraut; sea vegetables; rice and beans; pasta; fruit and juices; soy milk; condiments
Overview: Founded in 1968 with the belief that good health should not be a luxury available only to the wealthy, NOW Foods has been a family-owned company providing quality foods and supplements for more than 40 years.
Health: Listed as an “A-rated” Good Manufacturing Practices facility by the Natural Products Association; has won numerous awards for product safety, sourcing and health; Quality Control and Assurance Teams use a time-consuming, meticulous process to ensure freshness and quality; offers organic and non-GMO foods, as well as supplements; offers several gluten-free flours and products
Environment: Four-time winner of the Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Award; water conservation projects save more than 1.3 million gallons of water a year; energy-efficient lighting saves 600,000 kilowatt-hours annually; recycles more than 400 tons of material annually; uses 100 percent recycled content shipping boxes; offers employee volunteer days for a local forest preserve
Social: Donates to a large number of nonprofit causes and organizations including the Vitamin Angels Alliance, which provides vital nutrition to malnourished children, the World Wildlife Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Nourish America, the Natural Health Research Institute and more
Products: Dried fruit, organic dried milk products, non-GMO oils, organic and non-GMO grains, nuts and seeds, flours and baking mixes, healthy snacks
Overview: Founded by a mother dedicated to offering the best-tasting and healthiest organic foods for babies, toddlers and children, Plum Organics produces a wide range of products that are certified organic and nutrient-rich.
Health: Products gently cooked and minimally processed to ensure best flavor and nutrition; all foods certified organic; no high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats or artificial ingredients; non-GMO; packaged in BPA- and phthalate-free packaging; offers gluten-free blends
Environment: Waste reduction and reduced energy use in manufacturing and transportation; pouched food is 10 times lighter than traditional glass jars, requiring less time and energy to produce and reduced transportation emissions
Social: Dedicated to raising a generation of children who have access to pure food, free from harmful pesticides and artificial ingredients; small company that tries to source as much food domestically as possible
Products: Organic baby cereal, training meals, snacks, fruit and vegetable purées, smoothies, fruit snacks and grain sticks
Editor’s Note: Since the publication of this article, Plum Organics was bought by Campbell’s. Plum Organics remains a certified B Corp. We are unaware of whether or how the purchase affected Plum’s business practices and mission.
Overview: Located north of San Francisco, Alvarado Street Bakery has been a leader in healthy, organic whole and sprouted grain baked products for more than 20 years, supporting sustainable agricultural and business practices.
Health: Uses sprouted grains to produce fiber-rich breads; uses many organic ingredients; attempts to avoid GMO ingredients; no chemical preservatives, additives or artificial ingredients
Social: Employee-owned worker cooperative employing more than 100 people; member-controlled; profit-sharing
Products: Sprouted and organic grain breads, bagels, pizza bread, rolls, buns, tortillas, granola
Founded in 2007, GoodGuide is a “for benefit” corporation that transparently rates companies based on a sophisticated system that takes into account a company’s products’ life cycles, environmental impact, nutrition and sociology, among other characteristics. GoodGuide’s mobile app allows you to learn about a company’s practices by scanning its bar code in the store, helping you make better buying decisions. Download it for your digital devices at the Apple iTunes store or the Android Marketplace.
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