Consumers Sticking with Organics

December 30/Food Weekly Focus -- Will organic become standard fare? While trading down and out of some segments is common during tough economic times, consumers that buy natural and organic food are staying loyal to this health-conscious category. A recent survey from market research firm Mintel shows that nearly 40% of consumers claim they have not changed organic product purchasing habits because of the recession, and only a mere 3% have stopped buying organic products altogether.

"Heavy users of natural and organic food and drink are most likely to indicate they've traded down to less expensive organic options," notes David Browne, senior analyst at Mintel. "However, less-frequent consumers of organic products have shown that they haven't shifted their behavior. This is good news for the organic food and drink market, as this group may begin to buy more once recession-related fears begin to fade."

With a slight decline in supermarket sales in 2009 (-0.3%), Mintel and natural products industry expert SPINS expect the organic food and drink market to recover gradually during 2010-12, but not at pre-recession growth rates. Consumers have made shifts in their purchase behavior that are likely to carry on through this time period.

"The natural and organic food industry has an opportunity to instill trust and educate consumers as we work our way out of this recession," comments David Browne.

Currently, only one-third (33%) of survey respondents trust the term "natural" on labels, and nearly half (45%) trust the term "organic." However, roughly 30% of respondents say they do not know if they can trust either term.

From the January 4, 2010, Prepared Foods E-dition