Who is the Organic Shopper? It Depends on Whom You Ask.


By Mindy Hermann, RD

With demand for organic produce continuing to grow, players throughout the supply chain seek to better understand the organic shopper. Several organizations pose questions about organic attitudes and beliefs in their annual surveys. Taken collectively, the survey results paint an informative picture of today’s consumer of organic fruits and vegetables.

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Organic perceived as healthier and less processed

The International Food Information Council Foundation recently released its 12th Annual Food and Health Survey, with results derived from an online survey of 1,002 Americans ages 18 – 80. Approximately one-sixth of respondents include organic in their top three definitions of a healthy food and a slightly larger proportion, one-fifth, include organic in the top three definitions of a healthy eating style. About one-quarter, led by Millennials, buy foods because they are labeled organic; organic options are even more important to survey participants when eating out.  Interestingly, the organic label appears to elevate the perception of other product features – twice as many respondents consider conventional baby carrots to be processed, as compared to organic. 

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Greater availability could help boost produce consumption

The Produce for Better Health Foundation Primary Shopper Report 2016 likewise found support for organic, with 11% of respondents naming organic as one of the top three most important factors when shopping for fruits and vegetables. Not only do over one-quarter of shoppers say that organic foods are important to good health but nearly the same proportion note that having more organic varieties available would help them eat more fruits and vegetables.  Locally grown, however, ranked significantly higher than organic as a reason to purchase fruits and

Price matters, and taste matters less

A Pew Research Center survey, The New Food Fights: U.S. Public Divides Over Food Science, 2016, generated a more robust response to organic foods. Nearly one in seven adults bought organic food at least once in the previous month and four in 10 say that some or all of the food they eat is organic. Health considerations drive the purchase of organic foods for a majority of respondents, particularly younger adults compared to those 50-plus, and those who identify as eating healthy and nutritious foods are more likely to purchase organic. Fewer consumers overall bought organic foods in order to help the environment or for their convenience. Support for organics was particularly strong among respondents who care about GMOs.

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Price appears to strongly influence organic purchases. Nearly three-quarters of survey respondents say that the price of organic foods compared to their conventional counterpart influences their purchasing decisions. Even frequent consumers of organic foods say they are cost sensitive, although price influence is not as strong as on more casual consumers of organics. 

Health generally trumps taste as a reason to purchase organic. Just over half say that organic fruits and vegetables are better for health but only one-third describe them as tasting better. But those who eat organic foods more often are more inclined to say they taste better.

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