A Newberry-based company is part of a growing national trend in organic personal care products.
The company, Coldstream Naturals, carries the only USDA-certified organic oral care products – tooth cream and mouthwash – in North America.
They are are currently offered online and in stores in 15 states, including five stores in the Gainesville area.
Bob Zahradnik, founder of the Newberry-based company, said a majority of the required documentation is to prove all raw materials used in his products are certified organic, which means 95 percent of the materials — excluding salt and water — are USDA-certified organic.
All ingredients Coldstream uses are certified. The main ingredient used is citrozine, a fruit based bioflavonoid. The tooth cream is very similar to conventional toothpaste in terms of production, except the tooth cream has a slightly higher viscosity.
This certification ensures the product was produced with no synthetic fertilizers or ingredients and was not chemically altered in any way, including genetic engineering, according to the National Organic Program’s website.
This marks a change for the USDA, said Rosalie L. Koenig, a plant pathology professor at the University of Florida and former member of the national organic standards board from 2001 to 2005.
She said the agency typically only certifies agricultural products like fruits and vegetables.
However, Sam Jones-Ellard, public affairs specialist for the USDA Marketing Service, said if the ingredients and the process are individually organically certified, like Coldstream’s tooth cream, a personal care product is eligible to bear the same seal.
Zahradnik said marketing an organic product versus a conventional one can be challenging, especially when trying to get consumers to swallow a higher price.
A 3.5-ounce bottle of tooth cream costs $7.59 and a 16-ounce bottle of mouth rinse is $10.99 at Ward’s Supermarket. These in-store prices are still lower than their online counterparts.
Zahradnik said the steeper price tag is due to materials and packaging, which, unlike the conventional toothpaste tube, are recyclable. The cost and method of the tooth cream production is about the same.
“Typically, because we can only use ingredients [to package] that have been certified organic by the USDA, we find that the cost in many cases is in the neighborhood of twice the cost of uncertified similar ingredients,” he said.
But Zahradnik believes the biggest obstacle for an organic product’s mainstream commercial success is the lack of product education.
“For most consumers, I think that some of the labels are confusing,” Koenig said. “To understand what they’re actually purchasing, they have to go into the organic regulations and understand them.”
Much of the difficulty for Coldstream Naturals lies in differentiating the product, Zahradnik said.
Online sales are especially tough because consumers use a broad range of search words, like “natural” or “all-natural” when looking for organic products.
Unlike the stringent standards set by the USDA organic seal, these “natural” ingredients can go through “significant chemical processing that changes their identity,” Zahradnik said.
“Natural products, especially in the cosmetic or oral care area, simply mean that they were derived from natural ingredients,” he said. “Well, everything is derived from natural ingredients.”
Zahradnik said Coldstream Naturals has had the most success with marketing directly to health food stores like Ward’s because they understand the difference between organic and natural products.
“We’ve learned a lot in that process as to what it takes to sell our product in these stores,” Zahradnik said. “Quite frankly, I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made.”