Who’s buying organic foods?

The year 2017 marked continued strength in the organic food market. According to the Organic Trade Association (OTA), U.S. sales surpassed $45 billion over the course of the year, more than doubling in size from a decade ago. OTA notes that the 2017 figures represent a 6.4% increase from the previous year — significant, considering the 1% increase in total food market sales. Organic now accounts for 5.5% of the food sold by U.S. retailers.

“Organic has arrived. And everyone is paying attention. Consumers love organic, and now we’re able to choose organic in practically every aisle in the store,” said Laura Batcha, OTA’s CEO, in a statement.

Consumers report that they’re finding it more convenient than ever before to buy organic. According to market research publisher Packaged Facts, most people say they’re buying more natural and organic foods, and almost half are visiting their local supermarket’s organic section to do so.

The organic market is maturing. Which consumers are helping it grow?

Millennials

Since 2009, OTA has been studying the organic buying patterns of households. When investigating the buying habits of different generations of parents, the organization found that millennial parents accounted for 52% of organic buyers, a sharp contrast from the 14% that represents baby boomers. Generation X parents sat in the middle, at 35%.

OTA’s findings begged the question: What about non-parent millennials? When digging deeper, OTA found that all adult millennials were more likely to have been raised eating organic food, and as they became parents, were in many cases passing along their consumption habits to their children.

“Millennials are the largest consumer group in the U.S., and they’re choosing organic,” said Batcha. “As more members of this generation become parents, their presence in the organic market will just get stronger. Over the next 10 years, we’ll see a surge of new organic eaters and consumers.”

Clean label movement

In its research, Packaged Facts found that organic and clean label consumers were what it considered to be “informed, curious and engaged, as well as active in the management of his or her own health and wellness, and often highly educated and accomplished professionally.” Organic and clean label products, to some shoppers, have a personal component: a stronger connection to the community around them, empowerment to make values-driven choices, or a reminder of a simpler time.

These consumers, according to research from Packaged Facts, also tend to be of Asian or Hispanic descent, reside in the Northeast and Pacific states, and/or have greater than $100,000 annual household incomes.

Positive impact on health

Pew Research Center finds another major reason that people purchase organic foods: health concerns. In 2016, 76% of organic shoppers reported their reason was to “get healthier foods,” whereas only 22% said that convenience was the reason and 33% reported environmental reasons.

“Demand for organic is flourishing as consumers seek out nutritious and clean food that is good for their health and for the environment,” said Batcha. “That demand is driving innovation, and there are now so many organic options that we can all eat organic for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and everything in between.”

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