Popular Food Certifications

Popular Food Certifications

Popular Food Certifications

Given the changing nutritional preferences of the wider population today, many people no longer make nutritional choices based on the nutrition labels on the back of a package. Rather, many consumers are actively searching for food brands that can demonstrate a verifiable commitment to specific nutritional paradigms, dietary preferences, or other perceived health-enhancing qualities. This is where third-party certifications play a major role in increasing the transparency and commitment to rigorous health standards that garner consumer trust.   In the health food industry, third-party certification is one of the absolute best product differentiation strategies and is a proven pathway to cementing a brand´s status with specific groups of consumers. The Consumer Goods Forum and the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) state decisively that “companies that obtain third-party certification have greater opportunities with the buying community thus providing greater market access for their products.”  In this article, we will discuss popular food certifications. 

Selecting the best third-party certifications for a specific brand or food product requires understanding your potential consumer audience, their demands and preferences, and how those relate to the standards, values, and criteria reflected in the specific third-party certification. Here at The Paleo Foundation, we are proud to offer the leading Grain-Free, Paleo, and Keto Certification programs worldwide, which have been recognized as some of the most popular food certifications according to sources like Alliance Sales and Marketing, Supermarket News, and SPINS.com.

However, many of the brands that we certify, have also chosen to invest in other popular food certifications, including: 

  • Certified B Corporation
  • Gluten-Free Certified
  • GMO-Free 
  • Certified Women-Owned Business 
  • Kosher Certification
  • USDA Organic 
  • Certified Vegan
  • Among Others 

Each of these valuable third-party certifications plays an important role in helping health food brands to differentiate their products from the competition, improve their overall brand transparency with consumers, and contribute to a more transparent and trustworthy food system. As partners in the world of third-party certification organizations, we here at The Paleo Foundation have a deep respect for many of these popular food certifications, with a special admiration for the Certified B-Corporation Certifying Agency, The Gluten-Free Certification Agency, and the non-GMO Project verification program.

In this short article, we outline the overarching ideals of these three organizations, the purpose and background of their certifications, their certification standards, and process, and how they benefit their certified clients. 


Popular Food Certifications 


#1 B Corp Certification

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, input materials, and other sustainability issues. Today there are more than 4,000 Certified B Corporations in more than 70 countries and over 150 industries, making it easily one of the most popular food certification programs in the world.


Overarching Ideals and Underlying Purpose of the Organization 

The B Corp Certification was born from the idea that business owners should be able to move beyond the dichotomy of either making money or doing good. Too often, people have assumed that the most successful businesses and corporations were those that vehemently pursued maximization of profits and/or shareholder value against all other goals and motivations. Companies that wanted to act as a force for good in their community or the wider world were either seen as naïve or considered to be a financial casualty in the long run. 

B Lab, the organization behind the B Corp Certification, however, believed that business owners could operate a financially successful business that also was faithful to its wider values. Making money and being a force for good in the world should not be mutually exclusive. 

The organization, which began in 2006, firmly believes that a different kind of economy was not only possible, but necessary. Instead of focusing on a major political overhaul of the economy, the B Lab believed that business could lead the way toward a new, stakeholder-driven model. Eventually, the B Corporation certification process was born to recognize and certify companies that meet high standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. The standards were developed independently and cover a company’s impact in key areas, including Governance, Workers, Community, Environment, and Customers.

Beyond certifying individual businesses, the B Lab focuses much of its energy on mobilizing companies to create a force that challenges the fundamental bases of our economic system. Once a company receives certification, they also become part of a network that pushes for changes to our economic system that seeks to create a better balance between profit and purpose. Specifically, the B Lab and the wider B Corporation community participate in creating standards, policies, tools, and programs that shift the behavior, culture, and structural underpinnings of capitalism. 


Certification Process 

Companies that want to achieve the popular B Corp certification will need to go through a comprehensive assessment of their business impacts on all stakeholders; from the initial supply chain provider to the final customer. During the certification process, the company must disclose any controversial operations to B Lab. They must also commit to transparent and public disclosure of their performance in several different areas.

To certify that a business is meeting high standards of verified performance, B Lab verifies company best practices, accountability, and transparency in the areas of governance, workers, community, environment, and customers. More specifically, the company must demonstrate high social and environmental performance by achieving a B Impact Assessment (BIA) score of 80 or above and passing the risk review. 

The BIA is essentially a questionnaire that the company fills out to the best of its knowledge on its own. If you feel your company has achieved a score of at least 80 points, you then submit your BIA for review to B Lab. An evaluation analyst will conduct a high-level review to make sure that the company is eligible for certification. Once your company passes the evaluation, a standards analyst will be assigned to review the company’s documentation and verify the answers to ensure you are eligible for certification

Furthermore, the company must agree to a legal commitment to change its corporate governance structure so as to be accountable to all stakeholders, not just shareholders. The company must also exhibit transparency by allowing information about their performance measured against B Lab’s standards to be publicly available on their B Corp profile on B Lab’s website.  

Lastly, the company must also submit a Disclosure Questionnaire that allows the company to confidentially disclose to B Lab any sensitive practices, fines, and sanctions related to the company or its partnership. 


Benefits for Health Food Brands 

For many business owners, B Corp Certification is a way to proudly demonstrate your commitment to your company´s mission and to prove that businesses can thrive with a triple bottom line of profit, people, and the planet (and not necessarily in that order). For health food brands, however, gaining B Corp certification also offers numerous, practical advantages, such as: 

  • The ability to attract conscious consumers: A Unilever study found that a third of consumers are now buying from brands based on their social and environmental impact and that an estimated €966 billion in economic opportunity exists for brands that make their sustainability credentials clear. The B Corp Certification is one of the most respected third-party certifications demonstrating a strong commitment to the best social and environmental business practices. 
  • An opportunity to build customer loyalty: Besides attracting new customers, B Corp Certification also allows businesses the opportunity to build a loyal customer base. Several recent studies have confirmed a positive relationship and statistical significance between ethical responsibility and customers’ loyalty to a given brand. 
  • Ability to attract investors with shared values: If you are looking for investors to help grow your business, the ability to show your B Corp Certification should open the door to potential investors looking to invest in ethical and environmentally responsible companies. 
  • Collaborate with fellow B Corps: As we mentioned above, the B Lab also invests a lot of energy in networking and direct engagement in policy building aimed at changing the rules of our economic system. B Corp Certification thus gives your company an opportunity to participate in a network of socially and environmentally-minded business owners looking to make a major structural change to how our economy functions. 
  • Improve employee engagement: Lastly, because B Corp Certification analyzes how well a company treats its employees, showing this certification is a great way to both improve employee engagement and attract the best employee talent to help your company grow. 


Gluten-Free Certification 

Around 1 percent of the world population suffers from Celiac Disease. Though further research is needed, some studies suggest that another 0.5–6 percent of the global population may have gluten sensitivity or gluten intolerance.   Gluten-free certification by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) is a process designed to protect consumers with celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders by confirming that a food, drink or supplement meets strict standards for gluten-free safety.


Overarching Ideals and Underlying Purpose of the Organization 

The main purpose and overarching ideal of GFCO is to protect the consumer. According to their website, “the GFCO certification mark stands for the independent verification of quality and integrity, and products that carry the mark represent unmatched reliability for meeting the strictest of gluten-free standards.” The certification organization is actually a program of the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America (GIG), which is a 501c3 non-profit organization that empowers the gluten-free community through consumer support, advocacy, and education.

Back in 2005, the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America recognized that there was an urgent need for easy-to-identify labeling of safe, gluten-free products for consumers. Obviously, gluten-free certified foods are a major health concern for people with Celiac disease and other forms of gluten intolerance. However, limiting gluten intake or avoiding gluten altogether is an important of several popular diets and other nutritional trends. 

One recent survey found about four percent of U.S. adults are on a fully gluten-free diet for medical reasons. An additional 10 percent limit their gluten intake for similar medical reasons. Additionally, six percent are committed to a gluten-free diet and another seven percent limit their gluten intake for non-medical reasons.

Given the lack of independent, stringent, and verifiable gluten-free certification, GIG brought together several scientific bodies, researchers, and doctors to create their standards and testing process. The gluten-free certification process decided to settle on a threshold of 10 ppm (parts per million), which is twice as strict as the WHO, Codex, and the now-existing Food and Drug Administration (FDA) threshold of 20 ppm. 

Besides having certified tens of thousands of gluten-free products, GFCO also works with GIG, specifically through supporting outreach programs, including community support groups, the Generation GF kid’s program, summer camps, and food research.


Gluten-Free Certification Process 

The main difference between GFCO´s gluten-free certification and the FDA´s regulation of gluten-free claims is the accepted threshold of gluten. According to the FDA, when a manufacturer chooses to put “gluten-free” on food packaging, the item must comply with the new FDA definition of the term which stands at less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. GFCO´s third-party gluten-free certification places that threshold at 10 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. 

For companies looking to certify their food products as gluten-free with the GFCO, the organization will review all submitted products, their ingredients, and facility audits to ensure compliance with the 10 ppm threshold. This popular food Certification program follows a simple three-part process: 

  1. The interested brand or company should review the GFCO Manual and Branding Standards to learn about the requirements for obtaining and maintaining certification.
  2. The company then contacts GFCO to submit its interest in gluten-free certification. You will receive an application packet, including all information for achieving certification for your products. 
  3. You will then receive a price quote. When your company is ready to move forward with certification, you will need to register each of your manufacturing facilities with the GFCO Program. 


Benefits for Health Food Brands 

As we showed above, there are potentially millions of customers who are actively searching for gluten-free products either because of a serious medical condition or because of nutritional preferences.  Gluten-free certification, then, offers a direct link to those millions of consumers who are actively seeking out gluten-free foods. Besides greater market access, gluten-free certification allows health food brands to better respond to the evolving demands of their customers and cement a foothold in a growing market opportunity. One recent market analysis found that the popular gluten-free food certifications market size was valued at $4.3 billion in 2019, and is estimated to reach $7.5 billion by 2027. 

Due to the rigorous standards upheld by GFCO, gluten-free certification also demonstrate a brand´s unwavering commitment to the health and well-being of its consumers, and an obligation to the highest standards in food safety. 


Non-GMO Project

GMO is the common acronym for “Genetically Modified Organism” which differs from traditional hybridization and genetic selection. GMOs can be either a plant or an animal that was bioengineered by combining genes from different species to create a new species within a lab environment. Across the world, there is an increasing trend toward the avoidance of genetically modified products. A recent survey by the International Food Information Council Foundation found that 47 percent of consumers “avoid GMO food at least somewhat.” Nineteen percent said they avoid GMO food “completely,” and 28 percent said they avoid it “somewhat.” 

The Non-GMO Project is a nonprofit organization that has developed a popular food certification system that is backed by frequent testing of ingredients that could be genetically modified for consumers who wish to avoid them. 


Overarching Ideals and Underlying Purpose of the Organization 

The Grocery Manufacturers Association recently published a study that stated that GMOs are now present in 75 to 80 percent of conventional processed food in the United States. Unfortunately, there are no labeling requirements for foods with GMO ingredients within the United States. This means that the vast majority of consumers in North America consume GMO ingredients on a daily basis without ever knowing. 

Across the Atlantic, the European Union has developed a much more rigorous and demanding system of labeling requirements for GMO products. GMOs that are authorized by the EU may be used in food at any level, but are subject to strict labeling requirements. GMOs not authorized by the EU cannot be used in the EU in food due to a landmark zero tolerance for any GMO that has not been authorized.

The Non-GMO Project believes that everyone has a right to know what is in their food and deserves access to non-GMO choices. This obviously begins by helping consumers discover which foods can confidently be considered free of genetically modified organisms. Thus, the Non-GMO project offers rigorous product verification for food brands that make a commitment to sourcing and using GMO-free ingredients. The non-profit organization also offers education for consumers, companies, and other stakeholders in order to better care for themselves, the planet, and future generations.

The Non-GMO Project believes that “by voting with our dollars every time we shop, collectively we have the power to change the way our food is grown and made. Preserving and building the non-GMO supply chain is a critical step of transitioning toward a non-GMO food supply for future generations.” 

By helping consumers to make informed purchasing decisions around non-GMO food products, the organization also seeks to preserve our diverse genetic inheritance, support the restoration of traditional seed breeding and the right of farmers to save and plant their own seeds, and reinforce systems of organic agriculture by reducing contamination pressure and protecting the supply of non-GMO seed.


Certification Process 

For health food brands looking to achieve the popular non-GMO certification, there is a simple, six-step process. 

  1. Select a Technical Administrator: The Non-GMO Project works with four independent Technical Administrators that do the product evaluations according to the Non-GMO Project Standard. 
  2. Sign a Contract with Your Technical Administrator
  3. Sign a Non-GMO Project License Agreement: With your technical administrator, you will go through the Product Verification Program Application for the Non-GMO Project. Once you and your TA submit the application, the Non-GMO Project will provide you with a License Agreement that outlines the parameters of your participation in the Program and the use of the Non-GMO Project’s trademarks. 
  4. Product Evaluation: Brands will want to prepare for the evaluation by bringing together documentation such as invoices, proofs of purchase, standard operating procedures for your facility, and certificates of analysis for your ingredients. Testing and/or affidavits are required for high-risk crops and their derivatives and testing must be completed by a Non-GMO Project Approved laboratory. In some cases, an on-site inspection of your facility may be required.
  5. Verification and Marketing Opportunities: When your evaluation is successful, your brand will receive a Certificate of Verification (COV) from your TA. The Non-GMO Project Verified Mark can then be used on your Verified product and associated promotional materials. The Non-GMO Project also offers marketing services, from social media kits to sponsorship.
  6. Annual Renewal: To maintain your non-GMO certification, your technical administrator will review your verified product(s) on an annual basis and you will receive an updated Certificate of Verification.


Benefits for Health Food Brands 

As more and more consumers become aware of the health and environmental risks associated with GMOs, demand for non-GMO-certified products should only continue to rise. The market for non-GMO products is surging 17 percent annually, according to one industry analysis. Thus, proving your commitment to sourcing and using non-GMO ingredients offers increased opportunities for market share and product differentiation.



For health food brands that are looking for a proven and demonstrated way to connect with consumers, increase brand awareness, and attract the interest of major retailers, investing in some of these popular food certifications should be high on your priority list. Consumers today are increasingly showing distrust in manufacturer claims on food labels. In fact, a recent survey found that 53 percent of consumers in North America are openly skeptical regarding manufacturer claims on their food labels.   At the same time, many consumers strongly believe that there are other important factors beyond the nutritional content of the food that factor into the healthfulness of a given item. A 2019 survey found that almost half of consumers (47.9 percent) believed that there were other factors that affect whether a food is healthy, including three underlying latent dimensions related to animal origin, preservation, and freshness/processing methods. The study also determined that over half the population (52.1 percent) believes that healthiness in food products is characteristic of one’s overall diet.

B Corp Certification, Gluten-Free Certification, and GMO-Free Certification all offer unique opportunities for health food brands to strengthen their commitment to healthy foods, best manufacturing practices, and environmental responsibility. More than ever, consumers are demonstrating with their wallets an increasing demand for healthy food that is ethically produced. Third-party certification will continue to grow in importance for these consumers. 



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