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'the unhealthy truth'

Organic Winegrowers New Zealand is pleased to announce Robyn O’Brien as a keynote speaker at their upcoming Organic and Biodynamic Winegrowing Conference, 25-27 June, 2019 at the ASB Theatre in Blenheim.

As a key figure in the USA’s good food movement, Robyn O’Brien has been fighting for a healthier, safer and more sustainable food system for over a decade. Her journey began one morning when her daughter had a life-threatening allergic reaction to breakfast. At the time, Robyn was a high-powered financial analyst in the food industry and a mother of four. From that day on, everything changed.

Robyn’s new career uncovering the US food system quickly took off. She wrote a bestselling book (The Unhealthy Truth), delivered a 2011 TEDx talk viewed more than a million times, and became a sought-after food industry advisor, public speaker and media personality. She has been called “food’s Erin Brockovich” by the New York Times. She has utilised financial modelling to tell a story that others dismissed.

Today, Robyn works with legislators, trade associations, grocery chains, several of the world’s largest multinational food companies and some of its most powerful startups to better understand the changing landscape of consumer behaviour and expectations in a broken food system.

She advocates for the growth of organics as the key to a regenerative agriculture, and works for the development of a reliable supply chain for organics, given how quickly organic demand is growing in the USA. As Vice President of rePlant Capital, an impact investment fund, Robyn deploys capital to support farmers in their conversion of farmland from conventional to organic agriculture. Why? “Because organic is good for families, farmers and soil. It’s a job and revenue creator. The world needs it and consumers are demanding it,” she says.


Tiffany Tompkins, Treasurer of Organic Winegrowers New Zealand, recently caught up with Robyn and asked her a few questions concerning her upcoming trip to New Zealand.

Tiffany: Robyn, you have mentioned that you have a strong connection and affinity for New Zealand. Can you tell me why that is?

Robyn: I have deep roots in New Zealand and am actually a New Zealand citizen, in addition to being an American citizen. My mother grew up in Havelock North and I am named after a Palmerston North farmer who was featured in NZ Home and Garden! Growing up, I was keenly aware of my New Zealand heritage and was taught how to make pavlova and cook lamb before I was ten years old!

Tiffany: So this is a bit of a homecoming for you. Perhaps this is the right time to get involved in organics here in New Zealand.

Robyn: I have always been passionate about New Zealand’s determination to stay clean and green. However, as a dual citizen, I recognise how closely tied we all are, how the export/import market can be quickly impacted when a leader imposes tariffs, and how important it is to have clear and defined standards. I’m very interested in getting involved in the development of New Zealand’s organic standard and helping to bring more NZ organic products to the USA. I believe New Zealand organic products – wine and food – have a lot of opportunities in the US market.

Tiffany: What kind of opportunities do you see for New Zealand organic and

biodynamic wine in the US market?

Robyn: Organic food is now mainstream, but the spirits, wine and beverage industry hasn’t caught up. Today, more than 80 percent of US households purchase organic food or beverages on a regular basis [source: Organic Trade Association 2017 survey], accounting for roughly 5 percent of total US food and beverage sales. Currently, organic alcohol makes up less than 1 percent of total alcohol industry sales.

Imagine if that changed? Right now, the spirits industry significantly lags behind food and beverage when it comes to organics. And, just as we saw a food awakening with consumers, the same thing can happen here.

From distributors to retailers to restaurants, there is an opportunity to grow organic. If organic spirits grew to 5 percent of total US alcohol sales, the potential impact would be enormous. Domestically, approximately 8.0 million acres of conventional farmland would be converted to organic and approximately 7.4 million pounds of pesticides would go unused annually. With Bayer and Monsanto staring down thousands of global lawsuits, the opportunity to convert the consumer is huge!

And that's just the responses to Tiffany's first three questions...!

OWNZ looks forward to welcoming Robyn back to NZ and hearing more about the importance of organics in our daily lives, how organic winegrowing can be one solution for climate change, and the opportunities that lie ahead for New Zealand organics.

Don't miss out on securing your seat at the Organic and Biodynamic Winegrowing Conference. Tickets available here -


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