Nature’s Path Founders Honored, Reflect on Industry

Speaking at Natural Products Expo East, Arran Stephens, co-founder of Richmond, BC, Canada-based Nature’s Path Foods, expressed gratitude for the recognition he and his wife and fellow co-founder Ratana were about to receive from the Organic Trade Association.

“I’ve been doing this so long. I was involved in the organic movement before it was an industry, since 1967,” Stephens said in the hours leading up to receiving an OTA Organic Leadership Award, the association’s highest honor. The awards are given annually to “an individual, inside or outside the organic industry, who has shown leadership and vision in furthering goals of the organic movement,” according to OTA. Both he and Ratana were honored with the “Growing the Organic Industry Award,” specifically.

nature's path
Arran Stephens of Nature's Path

In the early days, Stephens estimates the overall sales of organic foods didn’t amount to much more than one or two million dollars. “What is it now? $63 billion. That’s pretty substantial growth. In fact, the organic food industry is growing in double-digits, faster than any other segment of the food industry for the last, probably, 25 years,” he said.

Also commenting was Arran’s son, Arjan Stephens: “We at Nature’s Path are very excited about [this award]. It’s a recognition for my parents as pioneers in this industry, and how they’ve been able to sacrifice so much to grow a sustainable organic business, at a time when nobody knew what organic meant.”

Today, the 28-year-old certified organic breakfast foods company, still family-owned, adheres to what the elder Stephens calls the “triple bottom-line” of social responsibility, environmental stewardship and financial viability. These values led to a long-term commitment to and investment in organic agriculture, and recently, to an intense involvement in the non-GMO movement. Stephens has lent has voice and the company has financially backed efforts to label genetically modified foods and spread awareness, including its sponsorship of the film GMO OMG that created a buzz with its screening at Expo.

Also selected to receive 2013 awards from the OTA were Kyle Mathison of Stemilt Growers (Organic Farmer of the Year Award) and Karen and Colin Archipley of Archi’s Acres/VSAT (Rising Star Award).

Full Expo East 2013 Coverage

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, November 2013 (online 10/18/13)