Per an article in theJournal of Food Science, University of Arkansas researchers found 59% of survey respondents at least occasionally purchased organic chicken. What is preventing consumers from buying more organic chicken? The Arkansas study contends it is largely related to availability. Of non-buyers, 41% said organic meats were not or were hardly likely to be available in their supermarket, a sentiment shared by 30% of occasional organic meat purchasers. However, as might well be predicted, the higher price of organic meats is the strongest limiting factor for organic meat purchases.

Price has been at the forefront of many consumersí minds, as a troubled economy (government officials and some economists contend the recession ended over a year ago) continues to impact the lives of many Americans. However, those same Americans are finding the funds to treat themselves and their families. In this monthís issue, a panel of industry experts explores the future of health and wellness trends in the U.S., but during the interviews, the conversations naturally drifted to other topics, including organic consumption. As one of our interviewees noted, Americans may have reduced their organic purchases, but primarily of organic products for themselves. That is, they continue to spend more to make sure their children have organic foods, which they perceive as a component of a healthier diet.

Judging by candy prices during Halloween several weeks ago, that spending is not confined simply to healthy choices. A local discount superstore was selling 30-count bags of non-organic candy for $4.99, with 80-count bags going for $8.99. The pattern is by no means confined to somewhat-inexpensive candy; according to Technomic, consumers are consistently eating more desserts, when dining in restaurants. According to Technomic research, 70% of respondents eat dessert at least once a week; only 1% said they do not eat dessert. Furthermore, the researcher finds that, in restaurants, ìcost is less of a factor for desserts than for other mealparts.î

Obviously, Americans are willing to spend on items other than what may be traditionally perceived as nutritious. However, could their notions of health and wellness be expanding; could it be that consumers are realizing there is more to ìhealthî than simply nutritious food? Have consumers accepted the notion that the occasional treat is well worth whatever guilt may accompany it? Or, could it be they are looking for any sort of mood booster, as they continue to struggle through difficult financial straits? pf