frequently asked questions
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Organic certification & sourcing
How can consumers know that your products are truly organic?
Our brand authenticity is underpinned by our organic certification through BioGro, New Zealand’s leading organic certification body. On every Ceres Organics product, you will see the BioGro logo with our certification number (#4310).
We believe organics should not be diluted, and go to great lengths to guarantee and protect the best authentic organic ingredients. Our comprehensive network traces the certified products from the farm to the store or warehouse to maintain the utmost consumer confidence in integrity to organic, social and environmental principles.
Find out more about how organic certification works here.
Are you fair trade certified?
Organics addresses many of the social challenges we face today, embracing the Principle of Fairness (Matatika) – that healthy societies are based on equality, justice and respect where we share a common environment and life opportunities. To get organic certification requires stringent fair trade and labour criteria. Our suppliers operate under an Ethics code and work in compliance with the modern slavery act. All our products meet strict organic standards, and as such, they are audited regularly by a third-party certifying body which covers all organic requirements for production, with human welfare a component of the requirements for certification.
Ceres Organics is dedicated to the wellbeing of everyone through our supply chain, ensuring those involved are treated fairly and without exploitation, and that they have safe environments to work in. We only work with suppliers and producers that share our values around ethics and sustainability, with full traceability through our end-to-end supply chain. We work with a trusted network, with whom we have developed relationships with over many years. Many of our partners invest heavily in their local communities to enhance their wellbeing and ensure rural communities are empowered and united.
How do you support local communities and social initiatives?
We believe in giving back to the communities that support us. We actively engage in environmental and social initiatives, such as supporting various charities and causes including Auckland City Mission, GE Free Communities, GE Free Northland, various community garden and food education programs. To read more about recent initiatives and stories of positive impact please read our journal section.
Why is the country of origin of ingredients not always given?
At Ceres Organics, we pride ourselves on offering transparency. Although not required by law in New Zealand, we go to great lengths to voluntarily declare the country of origin of our products where reasonable and where we see that it is useful for our consumers.
For products with multiple ingredients, or single ingredient products with more than 3 potential country of origin sources, it becomes impractical and confusing for our consumers to list all possible sources. In these instances, we declare where the product is made and that it is from imported ingredients (and local if relevant).
While we can’t list all the possible countries on origin of our ingredients on all products, if you wish to know the exact origin details you can contact us with the product batch number, and we will be able to confirm this for you.
Why do you import many of your ingredients?
We source locally wherever possible and have been working hard over many years to build up the supply of NZ products, but it is a work in progress. Not all commodities can grow well here, and it can be hard to secure the supply we need, especially given the volumes we require and our requirements for organic certification.
Our concern is for the planet as a whole, with a focus on holistic farming and recognising that we are part of a broader ecosystem. Unfortunately, the globalisation of food has required the intensive use of synthetic chemicals, adversely impacted dozens of ecosystems. Foreign crops demand more resources and chemical supplies, while native crops adapt much better to their local environment, which is why we source our organic ingredients from their natural home, where they grow and make them best, with the industry to support them.
We only deal with suppliers that are certified organic to worldwide leading standards and align with brand values. Food quality and integrity are of the utmost importance to us, and we have strict sourcing policies to ensure first and foremost the quality of our ingredients and the ethics of the producer, and these supersede the preference for which country we source from.
Where do you source your organic cashews and are these produced under safe conditions?
Ceres Organics source organic cashews from a supplier in Vietnam with shared values who follow fair trade practices. This socially responsible company ensures workers are treated fairly and work under safe conditions. Handling is limited, with most of the processing done by machine. There is a small amount of processing by hand, due to limitations of the mechanical process, this is less than 5%.
Workers are provided with safety equipment and strict processes are in place to protect them from any risk of exposure.
The following facilities are provided for the safety of those processing the cashews:
- Area is well ventilated with sufficient lighting.
- Gloves, ear plugs and working shoes are provided.
- Uniforms along with aprons are provided.
- Safety goggles and safety helmets are provided.
- Additional attendance allowance and machine cleaning allowance is provided for employees in shelling section.
Employment is freely chosen, and unions are active in the factory.
Do the farms that supply your coconuts use monkey labour?
Ceres Organics is dedicated to ensuring the wellbeing of everyone and everything through our supply chain, and absolutely do not condone the use of monkeys in harvesting / picking coconuts. Not only do we have written confirmation from our long-standing supply partners around their position and processes, but we have several other checks in place that allow us to have full assurance.
As with everything under the Ceres Organics brand, the products meet strict organic standards. As such, they are audited regularly by a third-party certifying body which covers all organic requirements for production, with animal welfare a component of the requirements for certification, and full traceability of all ingredients used at all points of the supply chain. The company is also BRCGS Grade A certified, standards of which include ongoing monitoring and risk assessment of their suppliers.
What does sustainability mean at Ceres Organics?
Sustainability means integrating practices that support the long term health and well-being of our planet, communities, and future generations. We strive to minimize our environmental impact, promote ethical sourcing, and foster social responsibility throughout our operations.
How do you ensure the sustainability of your supply chain?
We work closely with our growers and suppliers to ensure they adhere to our strict criteria around social & environmental responsibility which is a requirement of being certified organic. To read more about our sourcing philosophy click here
What are your future sustainability goals and how do you measure these?
Aligned to our purpose “To bring healing to the earth and humankind” we are continually striving for betterment in all that we do. The reality is that when it comes to bettering the health of people and planet the job is never done and there are always opportunities to do better, and our aim is to leave the planet a little better than we found it in all that we do. The latest update on our social & environmental progress can be found on our sustainability page.
Our latest progress update shares the carbon reduction of our seaweed product which is measured through the total number of kg's produced divided by a carbon reducing rate C02/per kg as provided by our Seaweed farmers in South Korea.
Do you track your carbon footprint and what steps are taken to reduce it?
We are dedicated to monitoring and minimising unavoidable carbon emissions from our supply chain. Our carbon footprint is measured as the total emissions for each reporting period and total emissions per unit sold. Total emissions per unit sold is particularly important as it standardises the emissions, allowing for a method of comparison year on year as our company continues to grow. We are in the process of updating our emissions from our most recent reporting period and will share the latest update on our sustainability section here
We also support the production of natural carbon reducing products such as seaweed which is a natural carbon reducer due to its ability to absorb and store carbon dioxide during photosynthesis. As it grows, seaweed takes in CO2 from the surrounding water, effectively removing this greenhouse gas from the environment. Our production of seaweed has resulted in over 660 tonnes of carbon being pulled from the air.
Further to this, Organic agriculture is one of the best ways to help fight the climate crisis through reducing harmful carbon emissions. There is growing scientific evidence that organic agriculture can reduce emissions by 30-40% vs. conventional non-organic agriculture. More information can be found here
We also support the great work of the Rodale Institute and encourage readers to follow their site Rodale Institute.
Rodale Institutes work on climate change is a great place to start, read more here.
What data sources support information shared on this site around the difference organics makes to people and planet?
We support the incredible work of the Rodale Institute and encourage readers to follow their site here.
Rodale Institutes work on climate change is a great read, find out more here.
With regards to emerging science on greenhouse gas emission differences between organic and conventional agriculture read this article here
Do you support the GE free movement in New Zealand and do you have a GE free policy?
It is the policy of Ceres Organics to be completely GE free.
Ceres Organics was a founding sponsor of GE Free communities back in the 1990’s and we have continued to support organisations like GE Free NewZealand since. It is a requirement of organic certification to exclude all genetically modified organisms from the environment. Therefore, all our farmers and suppliers under their organic certification are expressly prohibited from using genetically modified organisms at any stage in the growing of crops and the subsequent processing of them. However, because of the possibility of cross-pollination of organic crops with genetically modified pollen we cannot absolutely say everything is GE Free as under NZ law if there is a minute trace this is misleading. It is possible to have minute traces of genetically modified material in some foods and the costs of testing everything is prohibitive. We believe that certified organic foods are the best way of avoiding genetically modified organisms and we will continue to work to keep this so.
Background to our support for a GE free New Zealand
Robust GE regulations and a precautionary approach including to newer gene editing techniques like CRISPR, and gene drive technologies have served New Zealand well keeping our people, food, and environment safe and healthy. Once genetically modified or engineered organisms are released into the environment, they become impossible to control or contain. The newer forms of GE have the same drawbacks as the older methods such as unpredictability and therefore risk to ecosystems, animal, and human health. It also involves the patenting of life forms which in a NZ context also becomes a Tiriti o Waitangi issue and an issue in general around the ownership of life. The rejection of GE food by consumers especially in Europe should give rise to concern for all farmers especially in an agriculturally dependent economy like New Zealand. Behind the drive to deregulate NZ’s GE Free policy are vested interests working more from the silver bullet approach to solving problems rather than from a holistic mindset. The history of modern agriculture has been based on how to extract more from nature at a lower cost. Organic agriculture takes the approach of how to work with nature and receive from its bounty. There are numerous safe natural and evidence-based ways to mitigate for instance, climate change, without resorting to the uncertainties and risks of GE. For example, we can lower greenhouse gas emissions by reducing synthetic fertiliser use, by increasing the diversity of plants ruminant animals eat and by ensuring stock numbers are appropriate to the carrying capacity of the land. GE technologies come with a price tag for farmers and no evidence to support their safety in the environment, with farmers and the public along with the environment likely bearing the cost of any adverse effects. We believe that, especially in the field of biotechnology, it is essential to embrace a view of human and natural life as being much more than mere matter waiting to be manipulated. The spiritual aspects of life must be considered at all times alongside its material aspects.
Are your products packaged sustainably?
Food packaging has a long way to go in terms of environmentally friendly options that also keeps food safe and hygienic for customers. Across our range we prioritise options that are environmentally friendly but also meet the requirements to keep organic food safe and of a high quality for our customers.
We use glass across many of our product ranges including spreads, sweeteners, oils, dressings and table sauces. We also use recycled paper labels across many of our products.
In 2017 we launched a world first triple layer home compostable pack across many of our ranges. Our hope for this launch was that we would inspire others to follow our lead in moving away from plastic but unfortunately the support and infrastructure for home compostable hasn’t developed to a point that makes home compostable a viable and supported option.
Why do you use plastic packaging?
When it comes to plastic, its less straight forward unfortunately.
We do use plastic across our product ranges. We had hoped our innovation around home compostable packaging (mentioned above) would be a solution to significantly reduce the use of plastic in our operations and to inspire others to do so also. As an organic and environmentally conscious business reducing our reliance on traditional plastics continues to be a core focus, however it’s not the only part to consider in wanting to bring more environmentally friendly packaging to market as food quality and food waste must also be taken into careful consideration. We currently face several challenges in moving completely away from traditional plastic packaging. The biggest being that, as an organic company, we don’t treat our products with anything artificial such as preservatives or chemicals, therefore they are at greater risk from issues that can get in through packaging such as insect infestation – they are always in search of a good meal! As quality is a top priority, plastic currently offers the best solution in most cases – it has the barrier properties we require, including oxygen and moisture.
We are still on our plastic reduction mission and hope to have a better option to launch in the near future. We do support soft plastics recycling and encourage this as a better solution to landfill when recycling isn’t an option.
Can your packaging be returned to soft plastics?
We have supported the Soft Plastics Recycling Programme for many years, and you will see we have started to roll out their logo on our packaging as we can. The scheme provides a bridge in the recycling gap for soft plastic packaging, which is currently not accepted through the councils kerbside recycling process. Collection bins in supermarkets and retail premises across New Zealand allow shoppers to take back their used soft plastic bags and wrappers, including our foil lined rice cracker and seaweed packets, to be recycled and repurposed into products including park benches and fences. When developing new packaging, we make sure as a minimum it meets the requirements for this scheme.
More info about this programme can be found here.
What canned products are BPA-free?
Most of our range is in BPA free cans, and you will find these have the BPA free icon on the front of the label.
Unfortunately, some lines have been more challenging to find suitable solutions for, specifically in our tomato range which are very acidic in nature.
On products that we cannot claim as BPA free yet, the canneries we work with have certificates as a result of tests that demonstrate there is no leaching of BPA into the food contents of the can. We hope to be able to make the BPA free claim across all our can labels as soon as we can get the necessary assurance from our suppliers.
What are the plastic trays in your rice crackers and seaweed snacks made of? can they be recycled?
Our trays are made of clear PET plastic (#1) and are recyclable through the kerbside recycling process by most councils across NZ. Please check with your local council.
Why do you not have a have a resealable zip on your flour packets?
Sustainability is a focus for our brand, and this is considered throughout all aspects of supply chain, right down to how our products are packaged. Our flours are packed in home compostable packaging with the barrier properties we need to maintain our products integrity. We have chosen not to include a zip in these products to help minimise the packaging materials used. This is in line with our wider sustainability goals around packaging. The bags can easily be folded down and sealed with a clip, or alternatively decanted into another container.
Product information & quality
Are your products vegan / plant based?
All Ceres Organics products labelled vegan or plant-based are free from animal products, are not tested on animals, and are manufactured to the highest standards with approved management systems to ensure no cross contamination occurs during the production process with non-vegan ingredients.
Look out for the vegan symbol next to a product on our site, or printed on our packaging in store. You can also filter vegan products from the search menu.
If there is no vegan or plant-based claim on your products does this mean they contain animal based ingredients?
We don’t label products which are obviously vegan or vegetarian, where our customers have indicated that labelling is unnecessary. These include ingredients such as our large range of whole food grains, nuts, seeds, fruit and flours and products which are not made with ingredients of animal origin. Some of our snack foods may contain products of animal origin, always check the ingredients list.
Why do some products have short best-before dates compared to that of other brands?
We take our product quality very seriously and stand by the best before dates printed on our product packs. We recognise that these dates may appear short in comparison to conventional processed food products; however, this is due to the nature of organics whereby our whole food products do not contain artificial additives or preservatives. Our products undergo extensive shelf-life testing to determine the maximum best before date, while always focusing on upholding our high food quality standards.
Is it okay to consume the product if it's past the best-before date?
Dates on food products provide a guide to how long food can be kept before it begins to deteriorate or may become unsafe to eat. The two types of date marking used on food products are ‘use by’ dates and ‘best before’ dates.
Foods that must be eaten before a certain time for health or safety reasons are marked with a use by date. Most foods have best before dates and these food products can still be consumed after the given date, as they should be safe to consume. However, foods consumed beyond their best before dates may have lost some quality.
Do any of your products contain palm oil?
Currently, none of our range of Ceres Organics products contains palm oil. We do wholesale palm oil as a food ingredient which is rain forest certified by the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil.
How do I know if your products are gluten free? and how do you validate your gluten-free products?
At Ceres Organics we have a large range of gluten free products. These products display the Crossed Grain Logo and / or the words “Gluten Free”. Look out for the gluten free symbol next to a product on our site, or printed on our packaging in store. You can also filter gluten free products from the search menu.
The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (FSANZ) takes a strict approach to gluten-free labelling when compared to international standards. According to the FSANZ, a foodstuff labelled as ‘gluten-free’ must not contain “detectable gluten” or “oats or their products”. Current local detection technology can detect gluten in amounts as little as 3 ppm. This means that foodstuffs labelled ‘gluten-free’ in New Zealand and Australia are effectively required to contain no traces of gluten over 3 ppm.
Internationally, the limit is much higher, at less than 20 ppm of gluten, as per the Codex Standard. It also allows for the inclusion of wheat, rye, barley, oats and other varieties of grain that have been processed to remove gluten. As some of our products contain ingredients from international suppliers whose gluten test capabilities are only to the Codex Standard of 20ppm, this limits our ability to make any gluten-free claims on these products.
Ceres Organics products displaying the Cross Grain logo and / or the words ‘Gluten Free’ have been tested to the FSANZ standard of less than 3 ppm. We go to considerable expense to ensure that all our gluten-free ingredients and finished food products are compliant with the FSANZ standards, and work with our suppliers and manufacturers to ensure there is no cross contamination between gluten and non-gluten containing products on site or during transit. We request Certificate of Analysis from our suppliers for the bulk ingredients used. Further processing and or packing of any of these items are undertaken in dedicated gluten free processing and packing environments, coupled with incorporating good manufacturing practices to minimise the risk of cross contamination of gluten into non-gluten products. For example, separation in storage (raw materials and packaging), separation during processing (scheduling), separation of specific equipment/machinery, cleaning of equipment/machinery and the processing environment, designated protective clothing, staff training and testing of finished products for gluten. All products with a gluten free claim are subject to independent accredited laboratory testing at least every 12 months and random audit testing.
Where we are sourcing ingredients or finished goods internationally from regions unable to test down to our strict requirements, or where there is risk in terms of cross contamination either in growing or manufacturing, no claim is made.
Are there health risks associated with the absorption sachets found in some of the products?
Food waste has to be a priority for us, if we are to stand behind our certified organic products and all the resources and commitment that has gone into producing each one. Because we don’t use any preservatives or additives, in order to help keep our more delicate products fresh we include a non-toxic oxygen absorbing sachet. Oxygen absorbers are one of the cleanest and safest methods of helping to prevent spoilage in foods due to oxidation and any bacteria present in air. It also helps to protect the quality of nutrients in the food. The product label should declare that it contains a sachet where one is used.
The contents of the sachets are all naturally occurring, these are not dangerous and are contained within a packet which is compliant to have direct contact with food. These have also been approved for use by our independent organic certifier BioGro. However, if accidentally consumed, it is recommended to drink large quantities of water and seek medical advice.
Your crispy rice crackers have glutinous rice in them, how can they be gluten free?
The term ‘glutinous rice’ refers to a style of rice which is sticky in nature. This rice, just like other variants of rice, is naturally gluten free. Our rice crackers are tested to confirm there is no detectable gluten, as governed by the FSANZ (Food Standards Australia New Zealand).
What does 'store ambient' mean?
Most of our dried products require you to store at room temperature or at “ambient” temperature, which means the air sounding the environment. This means your location shouldn’t be too hot nor too cold.
What is your stance on heat treatment of Seeds and Grains?
As an island nation, New Zealand has stringent controls on the importation of seeds and grains. This is to protect our unique biodiversity from threats including pests, foreign weeds, viruses and fungi. If allowed into the country, there are rigorous controls to manage their importation and they can be subjected to treatments on arrival. As a certified organic food company sourcing globally, we sometimes experience challenges when importing certain ingredients we want to make available to New Zealanders.
We do not allow our ingredients to be irradiated, nor does our organic certification standard. We pride ourselves on sourcing the best quality organic ingredients. And we know our customers value our transparent supply chain, which preserves the integrity of ingredients from farm to plate. We work very closely with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to avoid any treatment of goods on arrival. All shipments are inspected and sampled by MPI and they’re only released to our warehouse if they meet all requirements.
Heat Treatment - Millet
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) facilitate the import heath standards which determine which goods have the potential to introduce pests and /or unwanted organisms into New Zealand.
As part of this programme, Millet is required to be Heat treated to ensure that the seeds are Non-Viable.
This Approved heat treatment for seed devitalisation is 85C @>40% RH for 15hrs.
While it remains our preference not to subject ingredients to heat treatment, our experience and advancements means we now consider this on a case by case basis, for situations where there is no alternative. As millet is a cooking grain we believe this is a good outcome. It makes this popular ingredient available once again, and hopefully means no further supply issues. We are labelling this millet as being heat treated to inform our customers.