Nature’s Path stays fiercely independent as organic food and farming goes mainstream

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Arran Stephens, CEO of Nature’s Path, in the Nature’s Path garden in Richmond, B.C. The family-owned business owes its organic roots to Stephens’ father, who started an organic berry farm long before organics were trendy.

Elisa Birnbaum | May 19, 2016 | Last Updated: May 20 2:25 PM ET

Way before “organic” became a rallying cry of trendsetters, Arran Stephens’ father, Rupert, ran an organic berry farm on Vancouver Island and imparted these words to his son: “Always leave the soil better than you found it.” That fuelled his worldview and the company he launched years later.

Stephens opened the first vegetarian restaurant and natural supermarket in Canada in 1967 and 1971 respectively, when less than a dozen existed across North America. “I was very idealistic,” he said of those heady days. In the world of entrepreneurship, where idealism typically holds wallflower status, it’s worth noting that Stephens wouldn’t be co-founder and chief executive of Richmond, B.C.-based Nature’s Path, Canada’s leading brand of organic snack and breakfast food, without those romantic ideals coaxing him forward. You could say idealism spurred the movement currently giving conventional players a run for their revenue.

The organic industry contributes more than $3.5 billion a year to the Canadian economy, with more than 20 million Canadians choosing organic options for their groceries each week, the Canadian Organic Trade Association claims. “It appears to be a lasting lifestyle choice as opposed to a fad,” said Helen Long, president of the Canadian Health Food Association, noting more and more Canadians are discovering organic health benefits.

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