Organic, natural or nada

Although the press is all aflutter about natural and organic products, as well as dwelling on environmental issues, consumer attitudes are decidedly mixed, according to Parade magazine's 2007 "What America Eats" survey. Only 8 percent of the 2,001 respondents say it is "very important" for a product to be organic, versus 34 percent who say it is "not important at all." All-natural products carry a little more weight with respondents (ironic, since there the definition of all-natural is still rather nebulous). Some 15 percent say it is very important for a product to be all-natural, versus 15 percent who say it is not at all important. Similarly, recyclable packaging and having an "environmentally friendly" label are each considered very important by only 12 percent of respondents, and are considered not at all important by 16 percent. Convenience foods are more important than ever to grocery shoppers, the survey found, but only 1 percent of shoppers say they are serving supermarket-prepared meals for their family dinners. The good news for food companies is that the majority of respondents to the survey (87 percent), say that when they do have family dinners, those dinners are home-cooked, versus only 5 percent who opt for restaurant takeout for at-home family dining. These findings confirm to me that consumers are slow to change their eating habits. Home-cooked also has been redefined by mom as assemblage. She might make a chicken entree with the aid of a commercially prepared sauce, serve a frozen vegetable, reconstitute packaged mashed potatoes, toss a bagged salad and pick up dessert from the supermarket or a restaurant.