As the first national brand of USDA-certified organic milk, Horizon Organic, Broomfield, Colo., has always been dedicated to advancing the organic industry, supporting family farmers and respecting the environment, all in pursuit of providing the best organic dairy products possible.
Founders Mark Retzloff and Paul Repetto were members of the Organic Foods Association of North America, a vocal group that united most of the major environmental organizations in the US around their cause. Together they helped get the Organic Food Production Act (OFPA) passed in a floor vote in the House in 1990. Even though the OFPA passed, it still took until 2002 for the National Organic Program to finalize regulations.
“To celebrate, Happy the Cow – the star of our logo – rang the bell on the NASDAQ. But even during those 12 years before organic was finalized, Horizon was already implementing those soon-to-be organic standards, since its founding in 1991,” said Tyler Holm, president of premium dairy at Danone North America. “More than 30 years in, our commitment to our people, planet and animals remains strong, and our work to continue pioneering the organic industry forward reflects that. Today, Horizon Organic is the largest USDA-certified organic dairy brand in the world, with offerings across organic fluid milk, organic yogurt, cheese, butter, school essentials such as single-serve shelf-stable offerings and more.”
Horizon Organic, as part of Danone North America, is part of the B Corp community, and driven by the company mission to “bring health through food to as many people as possible.”
“We strive to be authentic to our brand values, including the values of organic and sustainable farming, while developing great products that deliver on key nutrients and great taste for consumers,” Holm said.
B Corp certified
Horizon Organic joined the B Corp community in 2018, as part of Danone North America.
B Corp certification is a designation that a business is meeting high standards of verified performance, accountability and transparency on factors from employee benefits and charitable giving to supply chain practices and input materials. Launched in the US in 2006, the third-party certification strives to balance purpose and profit.
“It’s a way of doing business that’s better for workers, communities and the environment – to be a force for good,” Holm said. “To us, this aligns with our mission to continue pioneering organic forward for the future.”
Being a certified B Corp allows Horizon consumers to have an extra layer of knowledge and confidence when it comes to the milk they put in their glass, Holm continued.
“We meet rigorous standards of verified performance, transparency and accountability,” he said. “And it doesn’t stop there. Part of the process is the continued ambition to get better – and we’ll continue to work towards raising the bar as the leading organic milk producer.”
Done the right way
Holm said Horizon Organic believes that farming done the right way can drive healthier, more sustainable food communities for the world.
“Doing dairy differently is what keeps us going. Upholding and pushing forward the standards of organic is what fuels us,” he said. “Our pasture-raised cows graze outside 120 or more days per year, eat an all-organic diet and we are proud to produce our milk without GMOs, antibiotics, added growth hormones and without toxic persistent pesticides.”
From a vision standpoint, Holm said the company wants to build the tomorrow we all want to see, for the one horizon we all share.
“That’s why we are focused on supporting a network of family farmers across the country, rolling up our sleeves to stand side by side with them and investing in our partnerships,” he said. “Our work on the farm includes carbon reductions, cow care, soil health and regenerative agriculture programs, and farmer care and safety. We farm for the future, and with the goal of nourishing a happy and healthy future for families, farmers, animals and the land.”
Holm said organic is part of the brand’s history and that idea drives how it does business.
“From our roots helping to establish organic standards with the NOP in the 1990s, to our robust network of organic farmers across the country that produce our milk, to our efforts to continue to raise the bar on organic, we see organic farming as our North star,” he said. “Of note, when we look toward pushing organic standards forward, we think about pioneering how we farm for the future. This includes new tools and technologies that will ultimately help us reduce our carbon emissions, up-level regenerative agriculture and soil health initiatives, and take continued great care of our cows.”
The food and beverage industry has experienced complexity in recent years, with supply and demand challenges at play. However, one trend that continues to grow is organic.
“The pandemic renewed consumer interest in the value of organic, and, despite inflation, they are seeing the value,” Holm said. “It is a standard that continues to signal trust at a time of broader uncertainty.”
Consumer insights and research are at the heart of innovation efforts, helping Horizon Organic identify the whitespace in the marketplace and excite consumers, he added.
“New products within the identified category are designed to meet a specific need-state for our consumers,” he said. “We continue to focus on delivering products that are geared towards the whole family that are focused on convenience, snacking, wellbeing and sustainability, which are top drivers for purchase in the category.”
One of Horizon Organic’s most recent innovations and product lines is Growing Years — a line of milk and yogurt products developed with pediatricians to identify key nutrients. The products were introduced to address the consumer need in a very specific time in a child’s life, which is the transition from breastmilk or formula into traditional dairy milk.
“Every serving of Growing Years delivers 50 mg of DHA Omega-3, along with choline and prebiotics,” Holm said. “Our whole lineup is made with certified organic milk from pasture raised cows. Horizon first launched DHA Omega-3 Milk several years ago and continues to focus on key nutrition for kids. It has been great to expand upon this with Growing Years.”
Horizon Organic, Holm said, also recently launched its organic dry whole milk – or powdered milk, as some may refer to it.
“This product was launched at the start of the pandemic, when consumers were looking for options that had a longer shelf life and convenience while providing wholesome nutrition,” he said. “Horizon Organic dry whole milk is produced under the same organic standards as our organic fluid milk: no GMOs; no antibiotics; no added hormones; no toxic and persistent pesticides; and the humane treatment of cows. Plus, it has 50% more calcium than typical whole milk in every delicious serving.”
Boosting company initiatives
Holm said Horizon Organic’s research and innovation team works closely with cross-functional business partners, including insights, marketing, UX teams and more, to conceive and develop its products.
“Some of the steps involved are ideation, technical feasibility and challenges, and benchtop and pilot work to narrow in on scope and ensure we can scale up to broad scale distribution,” he said.
The brand adheres to the highest standards, with certifications from USDA Organic and American Grassfed. Holm said some of the standards include an organic diet for cows, no toxic and persistent pesticides, ample grazing and pasture time, no growth or reproductive hormones, non GMO, and verified organic practices at all steps between the farm and the store.
He added: “We are also helping organic farms invest in the future by building off the organic standards with additional regenerative agriculture practices and providing educational sessions on soil health to assist with practices implementation that is specific to their operation.”
The value of organic
Horizon Organic keeps “the organic difference” in mind, which amounts to organic milk being the best milk for its consumers and families.
“To us, organic is not just a word, it is a standard by which we work with soil, plants and cows,” Holm said. “When we speak about the value of organic, there are multiple benefits. We choose to process organic milk because we know it provides benefits for people, for the planet, and for the animals who produce it. In addition, the way we structure our business with a network of farmers helps to keep organic farmers farming.”
Holm pointed out that the brand played a key role in working with the USDA to set the nation’s organic standards, and said it continues to push organic forward today. Additionally, he said Horizon Organic also is committed to the community in which it serves.
“We are proud to have partnered with and donated milk to Community Food Share, a local food bank in Broomfield and Boulder with close proximity to our local Danone teams and offices,” he said. “Over the course of many years, since before 2021, we have donated roughly 4.9 million pounds of product to this amazing local organization. We are also very proud to support the HOPE scholarship. This scholarship supports the children and grandchildren of our farming partners as they pursue education in agriculture or veterinary science-related fields. Since 2007, we have awarded $125,000 to more than 40 college students.”
- Read more articles from the Nov./Dec. 2022 issue of Dairy Processing