Prepared Foods November 28, 2005 e-newsletter

Just after the third anniversary in late October of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) implementation of the National Organic Program, which mandates a national standard for the production of organic foods, an annual survey reveals nearly two thirds (65%) of Americans have tried organic foods and beverages, jumping from just over half (54%) in both 2003 and 2004. The market for organic foods continues to grow, with 27% of respondents indicating they consume more organic foods and beverages than they did one year ago. Some 10% consume organic foods several times per week, up from just 7% last year.

According to the 2005 Whole Foods Market Organic Trend Tracker, Americans are buying organic foods and beverages for a variety of reasons. The top three are: avoidance of pesticides (70.3%), freshness (68.3%), and health and nutrition (67.1%). More than half (55%) buy organic to avoid genetically modified foods. Also, more than half of all respondents agree that organic foods and beverages are "better for my health" (52.8%) and better for the environment (52.4%).

"Organic foods continue to move into the mainstream, and more Americans are choosing organic foods as part of a lifestyle aimed at wellness. It has long been acknowledged that organic food is a better choice for the environment, and we applaud organizations like The Organic Center who are working to more clearly define how organics are better and more nutritious for our bodies through long-term and meaningful scientific studies," said Margaret Wittenberg, vice president of communications and quality standards at Whole Foods Market and a former member of the USDA's National Organic Standards Board.

The survey shows significantly higher taste and quality ratings from Americans who regularly consume organic foods and beverages, suggesting these consumers hold strong beliefs about the value and benefits of organics as a lifestyle choice. Of those who regularly consume organic foods and beverages:

* Nearly three quarters (72.4%) agree organic foods have more nutrients (compared with 31.5% of those who “don't consume” organic products) * 87.6% believe organic foods are better for their health (versus only 53.1% of “infrequent” organic consumers) * 82% believe organics are better for the environment (versus only 35% who “don't consume” organic products) * 85.7% believe organic foods are of better quality (versus 40% of “infrequent” consumers)

Organic foods and beverages are available in nearly every category of food in the supermarket. However, fresh fruits and vegetables remains overwhelmingly the most frequently purchased category of organic foods at 73%. Produce is followed by non-dairy beverages (32%), bread or baked goods (32%), dairy items (24.6%), packaged goods such as soup or pasta (22.2%), meat (22.2%), snack foods (22.1%), frozen foods (16.6%), prepared and ready-to-eat meals (12.2%), and baby food (3.2%).

More and more Americans -- 40% in 2005, a jump from only 19% in 2003 -- are noticing the USDA's green organic logo and clear organic labeling on the organic foods and beverages they buy. One quarter of respondents purchase organic foods at natural foods supermarkets, while 18% shop for organics at farmer's markets.

The main barrier continues to be price; almost three-quarters (74.6%) of respondents said the price of organic food and beverages is the main reason for not consuming more. Other reasons Americans are not consuming more organics, according to the survey, include: availability (46.1%) and loyalty to non-organic brands (36.7%).