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‘Just bonkers’: The problem with Aussie supermarkets

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Have you ever tried to read food labels and been overwhelmed? What’s GMO (genetically modified organism), non-GMO, low-fat, lite, natural, low-sugar, cage free or free-range? 

It’s something that drives the founder and CEO of agricultural sustainability and innovation consulting firm AgThentic Sarah Nolet “crazy”. 

Speaking on the Yahoo Finance The New Investors series with Editor-in-Chief Sarah O’Carroll, she said the way food is labelled is “just bonkers”. 

“The labels that we put on our food now have gotten so confusing for consumers,” she said. 

“Obviously companies are trying to sell that it's better, et cetera, but they're starting to label things that - if you know how agriculture works - that can't even be possible.”

She said labelling oranges as ‘non-GMO oranges’ is absurd, as there’s no such thing as an orange that has been genetically modified. 

“It's just all this labeling to sell things to consumers when that's not even true. You can't even have that [GMO orange].”

She said eggs can also have tricky labels to decipher. 

“You can see now often on a carton of eggs, that says, ‘We have 1,500 hens per hectare.’”

The problem is, consumers don’t know if that’s a lot of hens per hectare or not many. 

“That kind of oversharing of information or over-labeling is just bonkers. How can you possibly go to the grocery store and make a decision based on any of that?” she said. 

“So we've kind of gone down this path of trying to give transparency, but there's just so much marketing crap out there now.”

And, she added, while it’s “only getting worse”, with every problem comes an opportunity.

“If I had the silver bullet answer to that, I'm sure there's a business in there that I'd be building,” she said. 

The challenge is marrying different consumers’ needs - while some shoppers are more concerned about their health, others are more concerned about the environmental impact. Others still need to think about their budget and others about the time required to prepare. 

Finding a way to label food accurately and simply, while meeting all of these desires, is the goal. 

“That's the exciting part for the food system, that there are so many opportunities to meet the needs of consumers, just in really different ways.”

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