Are You Buying Organic Ingredients?

Consumers are buying into organic foods; are you buying organic ingredients?

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Chipotle Mexican Grill became
the first, and is now the largest,
national restaurant chain to serve
naturally raised (without antibiotics
or hormones) meats in their entrees.




By Kantha Shelke, Ingredients Editor

With the January release of the new Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Americans, consumers are focusing their attention on healthier eating. Despite all the positive things processed foods can do within the guidelines, the very acknowledgment that they are processed makes some foods perceived to be less wholesome, in the minds of some consumers, than raw or fresh foods. Wholesome, organic ingredients are one way for food companies to convince consumers that their processed foods are healthful.

And it’s official! Health-conscious consumers are driving double-digit growth in organic foods. Consumer focus on health and diet drove pushed growth in the food sector – as a whole, an area that otherwise showed very small overall change in the recent years.

According to ACNielsen, of the seven categories that experienced double-digit growth in the past year, six were related to the consumer’s perception of health or diet. Over a longer period of time, between 2000 and 2004, five categories grew based on concerns over health and safety, according to ACNielsen: frozen meats and poultry, bottled water, drinkable yogurts and other dairy-based drinks, fresh ready-to-eat salads and frozen fruit. All experienced double-digit growth.

Going all the way: The ingredient statement on Amy’s Kitchen’s All-American Burger, a soy patty, lists “organic onions, organic mushrooms, organic bulgur wheat”… even organic evaporated cane juice. The box also proclaims “no GMOs.”

Factors driving organic trends

Organic consumers hail from all socioeconomic strata, - dispelling the once- popular myth that organics awere boutique marketing and a consequence of conspicuous consumption.

Qualitative research by The Hartman Group (www.hartman-group.com), Seattle, revealed that that the perceived benefits of organics as part of a more generalized lifestyle were far more influential than disposable income. “Low-income consumers view their organic food purchases as valuable preventative medicine,” according says to Laurie Demerritt, a principal at Hartman. “They assume that high-quality organic foods, free of pesticides, preservatives and other additives, will maintain their health and the health of their family and require lead to fewer visits to a physician.”

The Hartman Group highlighted several social and cultural factors that influencinged consumer behavior and which cut across demographics including media influence:
  • Consumers are increasingly buying organic foods as a response to the growing focus by the media on the benefits of organic foods.

  • Loss of control – with less control over their environment, consumers are turning to self and familial control by conscious choice of what they put in and on their bodieseat and wear.

  • Scientific and technological advances have significantly influenced what consumers know about their foods and how they go about making their selection.

  • Life-transforming experiences and events such as the birth of a child or the illness of kin have significantly motivated consumers to reach for organics.

  • Dissatisfaction with inadequate and ineffective healthcare has promptsed many consumers to proactively manage their health and to reach for organic food as medicine.

  • Recent world events including the war on terrorism have heightened consumers’ interest in food security and motivated many to re-examine their food choices and to support local businesses.
Who is the organic consumer?

The demand for organics tends to be concentrated in urban areas, according to the Hartman Group. Organics are a “lifestyle choice” based on the belief they believed to beare healthier than conventional products and thought to prevent health problems, especially if embraced from childhood. The researchers found almost 75 percent% of Americans are concerned about food safety, and 87% percent of organic purchasers believe organic products to be safer than conventional ones.

Loyal users of natural food and drink products are estimated to total 26 million in the U.S., according to Datamonitor (www.datamonitor.com). Consumers of organics span diverse ethnic groups. There is higher incidence of organic consumption among Asian Americans, African Americans and people of Hispanic descent than among Caucasian populations.

How and why do consumers select organic products over conventional ones? First of all, consumers do tend to trust the major brands. As a result, huge companies including such as Mars, General Mills, Kraft, Nestle and Kellogg have jumped on or bought into the pioneer organic bandwagon. By producing branded organic lines or acquiring independent brands, these food giants are growing and influencing the organic trend.

Families with children are one of the leading markets for organic products. Their consumption of lunchbox and single- serving items has propelled the development of many new products focused on convenience and ease of preparation.

Young consumers (specifically 15- to 24-year-olds) are forecasted to influence the organic industry significantly because of their heightened awareness about food safety, health and environmental concerns. This second largest demographic group (40 million) grew up on supplements and organic foods, and is driving many school foodservice institutions and universities to provide organic options in cafeterias and even in vending machines.

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