- The fight for consumers between processed foods and natural foods continues, but organic and non-GMO companies are finding themselves in another battle — with each other.
- Non-GMO foods, expected to hit $13 billion in sales this year, are on pace to surpass sales for organic products, which total $11 billion for the year ended Nov. 1, according to data from Spins, though that data does not include sales from Whole Foods, a major retailer for each.
- Non-GMO sales have grown about 70% annually on average since 2013, approximately five times the rate for organic foods.
This can be frustrating for organic producers, as their products are required to be not only non-GMO, but also abide by other requirements relating to pesticides and hormones and antibiotics for food animals. "Organic is non-GMO," Cathy Calfo, executive director of California Certified Organic Farmers, told The Wall Street Journal. "Non-GMO is not organic."
Part of the reason for the battle between the two natural foods groups is competition for shelf space in grocery stores. In 2014, non-GMO foods accounted for 3.7% of total food sales in U.S. grocery stores, which topped the 3.5% for organic items, according to market-research firm Nielsen NV.
Also important is consumer perceptions, as many consumers are still confused by what "organic" and "non-GMO" labels actually mean. According to a Nielsen poll, about 49% consumers said non-GMO was an important factor in food-and-beverage shopping, while 47% said the same for organic.
Organic industry groups have since begun discussing and introducing new labeling initiatives to promote organic foods, including the sentiment that organic is "the real non-GMO" from the Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing Inc. and the label, "Organic is non-GMO & more," from California Certified Organic Farmers.
Not all producers feel the battle is a negative for the two groups. "George Siemon, chief executive of Organic Valley, the largest U.S. cooperative of organic farms, said that while some consumers may find non-GMO easier to understand, it ultimately will boost organic-food sales by drawing more attention to how food is produced," The Wall Street Journal reported.