Are You Buying Organic Ingredients?

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

By Kantha Shelke, Ingredients Editor

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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.

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 (, 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.

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