Kamut and marketing
Posted by Michael Druker on May 2, 2009
There’s a decent chance you’ve heard of Kamut grain. It’s in cereals, some breads, pasta, and so on, especially ones found in health food stores. Think back to the last time you had it; was it organic?
The answer is yes, it was. That’s because Kamut is actually Kamut®, a registered trademark of Kamut International. The grain is generically known as khorasan wheat, a heritage variety of wheat that was barely cultivated until one Bob Quinn decided to market it. As near as I can tell, the company currently contracts with farmers in various parts of the world, though mostly around Saskatchewan and Montana, to grow their wheat, pays them a fixed high price, and then markets the resulting products.
Here’s the twist: Kamut International does not own the grain. What they do is ensure for the consumer a standard for the production of that variety of wheat, which standard includes that it be certified organic and free of other wheat contaminants. You can peruse their justification for using a trademark.
The intriguing thing about this business model is that the company has popularized the name Kamut and created both a supply of it as well as a rapidly growing consumer demand for it. Success for Kamut the brand leads quite directly to increased organic agriculture and more money for wheat farmers. It is probable that eventually generic khorasan wheat will appropriate for itself the name “kamut” and the corresponding market share. But I don’t see that serving any particular interests right now, so it’s unlikely to happen anytime soon.
I’d always found it somewhat odd to see an ingredient in various organic foods be something trademarked, but I was pleasantly surprised by the results of this investigation.