Organic food purchases are on the rise — but could grow more with cheaper products
- Half of U.S. consumers say they're most likely to purchase fresh produce when they're buying organic, according to a new Mintel market report. Next comes meat, poultry and seafood items (41%), juice (39%), and dairy, milk and yogurt products (38%).
- Nearly three in five (57%) Americans agree that they're buying the same amount of organic foods today as they did in 2016. However, consumer preference for organic options appears to be on the rise as one-third (34%) said they are buying more organic foods in 2017 than the year before.
- The major deterrents to buying more organic foods are price and skepticism over authenticity, the report found. Just 39% of consumers who said their total food purchases are at least half organic, and 21% of consumers overall, agreed that organic foods are worth the extra cost. And most Americans (62%) are likely to say they would purchase more organic foods if they were less expensive.
The Mintel research showed that “feeling good inside and out” compels a number of natural and organic food shoppers. More than one-quarter of all consumers (28%) said they felt better about themselves when buying organic foods. That number increases to nearly half (48%) of those who said they are buying more organic foods this year.
There's no question organic foods are increasingly capturing consumer interest. Organic sales in the U.S. totaled approximately $47 billion in 2016, up almost $3.7 billion from the previous year, according to the Organic Trade Association. Organic food accounted for 5.3% of total food sales in the country last year, OTA reported, and the fruit and vegetable sector accounted for almost 40%.
Fresh produce has traditionally been the entry category for consumers new to organic foods, which OTA said is largely because the benefits in the produce aisle may be the easiest for people to understand. The group noted that consumers can touch a fruit or vegetable, smell it, and make a connection between a carrot growing in clean, healthy soils and putting it into their bodies. CPG products have a much tougher row to hoe by comparison.
However, the organic sector would do better with consumers if they made their products more affordable and found tangible ways to show the public that the claims of organic food products being fresher and healthier are actually true.
One method of lowering cost is to offer more private-label organic brands, which Nielsen found were an average of 18% cheaper. Another is to widely distribute research findings showing the health and environmental advantages of organic foods over those conventionally grown.
Transparency in food shopping has become more important in recent years, but that shift didn’t happen suddenly. The desire for transparency built up over the years, as label claims such as "fair trade" and "organic," manufacturers like Stonyfield Farm and retailers like Whole Foods drew back the curtain on the modern food system. When shoppers saw what was behind all the canned, shrink-wrapped and packaged products they regularly buy, many had a hard time viewing their shopping experience the same way again.