Household use of organic foods climbs to 30% in seven years: Facts on packaging

Using data from the national Packaged Facts* consumer surveys and Simmons Profile Reports**, “The Consumer of Organic and Clean Label Foods in the United States” by Packaged Facts explores the priorities, preferences and attitudes that drive organic and clean food purchases.

Simmons’ data reveals that household use of organic foods jumped to almost 30% and the gap between users and non-users narrowed by almost 10% between 2010 and 2017. % over the seven-year period, and is now also approaching 30%.

“With 34% penetration for fruits and 31% for vegetables, fresh produce has the highest household utilization rate of any organic food category tracked by Simmons. Nearly 30% of households use organic eggs most often, an increase of one-third since 2010. Organic milk accounts for only half the share of organic eggs, but household penetration has more than tripled in during the period 2010-2017″,note the report.

Simmons’ data tracks 13 types of foods that adults eat when watching their diet, and the data shows that only natural/organic products increased their use between 2010 and 2017 to 15%.

Who and why are they buying?

Not surprisingly, there is a widely held belief among the general American consumer that “natural, organic, and humane farming practices produce healthier, tastier, or more nutritious foods,” says Packaged Facts, with food safety concerns being cited as a key factor in choosing own-brand foods and often relate to production methods prohibited by USDA organic certification.

“Two-thirds of all adults identify GMOs in animal feed, the use of growth hormones and the use of antibiotics to improve production as areas of concern,” said the report, while local also plays into consumer preferences: “Over 70% of adults who buy mostly organic and natural foods at the grocery store express a preference for regional and local businesses over large food companies.”

The demographic profiles of consumers of organic and own-label products are either younger low-income people with young children, or high-end people with higher education and household income. Similar profiles are seen for consumers who buy locally grown foods, but these tend to be older consumers, the report notes.

“[T]he organic/clean label consumer is informed, curious and engaged, active in managing their own health and well-being, and often highly educated and professionally accomplished. However, it is also true that there is a powerful emotional component to clean label consumerism. It’s personal.”

The implications for retailers

So what does all of this mean from a retail perspective? Packaged Facts notes that organic and own-brand consumers love to shop and expect more from a grocery store. These consumers are less likely than average to decide where to shop based on low prices, and they are much more likely to consider takeout and meals; and in-store take-out/coffee options.

The quality of the fresh produce section is a key consideration for many of these natural/organic consumers, with around 80% of these consumers citing this as the main factor, followed by the quality of fresh meat and poultry, the quality of fresh seafood, and a selection of organic vegetables and fruits.

“Purchasing ability implies an easy, pleasant and productive shopping experience”, note the report.

Quoting Rick Stein, vice president of fresh produce at the Food Marketing Institute, in an August 2017 blog post: “For retailers to succeed, we need to consider a succinct and consistent definition of local that can be represented by in-store co-marketing between retailers and growers, as well as information on environmental programs. Throughout the year, grocers can offer an assortment of local products focused on freshness. This requires cultivating long-term relationships with farmers and suppliers to create the farmer-to-consumer experience.


* The Packaged Facts National Online Consumer Survey includes a nationally representative sample of 2,000 US adults (ages 18 and older).

** Simmons Profile Reports from Simmons Research, LLC is an ongoing survey of large, randomly selected consumer samples (approximately 25,000 for each 12-month survey compilation).

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