Survey: Millennial parents will be a lasting boon for the organic industry
- A new survey from the Organic Trade Association found millennials already are major buyers of organic products and will likely purchase even more when they become parents. A quarter of millennials currently are parents, but according to estimates, 80% of millennials will have children in the next 15 years.
- The trade group said these young consumers will be more inclined to buy organic for their family because they are looking for healthy, nutritious food options. Moms and dads view buying organic as making them a better parent. Baby food ranked as the top category where respondents said buying organic was extremely important, surpassing fruits and vegetables for the first time.
- “This year’s survey findings clearly show the positive relationship between organic and parenting. Exciting times lie ahead for the organic sector," Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director of the Organic Trade Association, said in a statement. " Over the next 10 years, we’ll see a surge of new organic eaters and consumers — the millennial parents of tomorrow and their children.”
Nielsen data released by the Organic Trade Association earlier this year found organic foods are in 82.3% of the country's 117 million American households. It's no wonder that sales surged 8.4% to a record $43 billion last year as consumers stocked their kitchens with everything organic, including crackers, strawberries, lettuce and fruit snacks.
With millennial parents already the biggest buyers of organic as they embrace healthier, more natural food products and shun processed items that have long been a staple of the American grocery shopping experience, it's no surprise they want to be even more careful with what they feed their own children.
“There is a doubling-down on interest in organic when children come into the home," Batcha said Thursday morning at Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore. When millennials "have children, there is going to be an immediate shift toward the type of commitment that they make toward organic."
Grocers and food manufacturers alike are taking notice. Supermarkets are expanding their produce sections to include more organics, with some retailers such as Wegmans posting displays with these fruits and vegetables right as the customer enters the store. Lidl, which entered the U.S. in June, also puts organic products front and center in its stores while emphasizing clean labels, locally sourced and free-from product selections.
And Amazon, which just recently closed its purchase of organic and natural foods pioneer Whole Foods, is expected to make organic an even bigger presence on its e-commerce web site and through its food delivery and meal-kit operations.
"We’re determined to make healthy and organic food affordable for everyone," Jeff Wilke, CEO of Amazon Worldwide Consumer, said in a press release last month.
Not to be left behind, big food makers have bulked up their organic offerings, largely through acquisitions. Campbell Soup spent $700 million to purchase natural and organic brand Pacific Foods of Oregon in July, and four years ago bought Plum Organics, a maker of baby foods, formulas and snacks. General Mills acquired natural and organics products maker Annie's in 2014 for $820 million, and Hormel snapped up organic meats brand Applegate Farms for $775 million a year later. Just this week, John Foraker, founder of Annie's, announced he was going to head California-based organic baby foods startup Once Upon a Farm.
As consumers demand more organic and manufacturers produce more of it, it's not hard to see why the Organic Trade Association is optimistic about its future. There have been questions as to whether organic is worth the extra price or if its health benefits are that meaningful. For now, those gray clouds have done little to dampen the enthusiasm for the popular food segment, and it looks unlikely that this momentum will end anytime soon.
- Organic Trade Association Today’s Millennial: Tomorrow’s Organic Parent
Follow Christopher Doering on Twitter