Consumers skeptical of organic and natural claims

When it comes to all natural and organic foods, consumers are wiser to the differences than most marketers might think and eager to purchase them if the price is right, according to a recent survey conducted by Harrisburg, Pa.-based marketing agency Pavone. More than three-quarters of respondents said they would prefer to purchase organic and all natural goods if comparably priced with other leading brands.

That is good news for an industry that’s poured millions of dollars into educating the public about the value of all natural and organic products, but looming consumer skepticism about all natural and organic benefits also places increased pressure on manufacturers to make sure their products support the claims made on the package.

"Consumers are smart and getting smarter, especially in this economy," says Pavone President Michael Pavone. "They have been inundated with products claiming to be all natural or organic, so they're naturally skeptical. It's up to manufacturers to explain very clearly why their product meets certain criteria and why consumers should believe it." 

The study, conducted in April 2009 with 353 adults (78 percent female, 22 percent male) who identify themselves as their household's primary shopper also found consumers are well aware of the differences between the two food categories and can accurately define process-based organic foods – those produced without the use of chemicals, contain no artificial ingredients and are minimally processed – and ingredients-based all natural products – foods that contain no artificial ingredients.

Overall, organic foods faired slightly better in the study than their all natural counterparts. In terms of health benefits, 79 percent agreed that organic foods are "better for my health" than non-organic foods, versus 71 percent with the same opinion of all natural foods.

"The best news is that the desire to purchase remains high," says Pavone, "and shoppers remain open to trying new things – as long as it doesn’t break the budget."