The majority of Americans, 84 percent, buy organic food sometimes while 45 percent buy them regularly (at least once a month), according to a new national survey. Meanwhile, U.S. retail sales of organics are on the rise, with sales growing 11.5 percent in 2013 to reach more than $35 billion.
Sales increased another 11 percent in 2014, reaching $35.9 billion as increasing numbers of consumers sought out organic produce, organic eggs and even organic packaged goods and snacks. In all, more than eight out of 10 U.S. families purchase organic foods (at least sometimes), and data suggests that the profile of the organic consumer is changing …
Organics were first regarded as a hippie movement, followed by drawing in a more affluent market. Now younger generations (who are typically less well-off) and other groups, such as Hispanic families, are among the fast-growing demographics in the organic marketplace. And while consumers on the east and west coasts have traditionally been the most avid organic purchasers (and still are), this is quickly changing as organic foods become more widely available across the United States.
As for why more people are buying organics, most do so to avoid synthetic pesticides on produce, and antibiotics and synthetic growth hormones in meat. Others do so because organic foods are free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). As for nutrition, a report by the French Agency for Food Safety (AFSSA) revealed that, compared to non-organic food, organics:
- Have higher levels of minerals and more antioxidants, including phenols and salicylic acid
- May be more nutrient dense
- Contain fewer or no pesticide residues
- Contain fewer nitrates
Another report by The Organic Center found that organic foods have, on average, 25 percent higher concentration of 11 nutrients, including antioxidants and vitamins A, C and E.
There is some confusion when it comes to the organic label, however. Most Americans understand that it means no synthetic pesticides are used, but fewer (less than half) are aware that the USDA organic seal also means chickens must have a minimum amount of living space and access to the outdoors. A large percentage of Americans (84 percent) also believe that organic produce from other countries should be labeled to reflect this.
It’s clear organics are not a passing trend but are here to stay, which is good news because it is forcing new environmentally friendly models to be developed between food manufacturers and producers to ensure sustainable supplies of organic ingredients. While they can sometimes be more expensive than conventional foods, this isn’t always the case, and we’re increasingly seeing the price differential between organic and conventional products narrow.