The organic food movement has evolved in the last decade, from a niche category to big business. Consumers now have infinite organic choices, and eating organic has become a way of life for many.

Sales of organic food and beverages have grown 41% since 2006, with the market experiencing particularly strong years in 2007 and 2008. However, due to recessionary woes, the market declined slightly in 2009 (-0.3%), and, by year end, Mintel estimates sales will be in the $6.2 billion range.

Similarly, global product launches for organic meals and meal centers have either held steady or shown drastic declines in the past year. Organic consumers include parents with kids in the house, a demographic hit hardest during this recession. As a result, these consumers have traded down to less-expensive organic brands or cut back on organic purchases altogether.

Looking ahead, Mintel expects the organic food and drink market will recover gradually during 2010-2012, though not to pre-recession growth rates, as consumers have made shifts in their purchase behavior that are likely to continue through this time period. That said, as the recession fades, consumers who have traded down or out of the organic market are expected to return. In addition, an influx of young consumers interested in organic foods and beverages will help stimulate sales in this market.

Information in this column is from the Global New Products Database, the premier source of global product intelligence, published by Mintel International Group; 351 W. Hubbard, 8th Floor; Chicago, IL 60610; call: 312-932-0600; fax: 312-932-0474; or e-mail pf