· August 17, 2017

Twenty-Six Percent of U.S. Consumers Trust Organic Food Labels

Source: Sustainable Food News

A "lack of faith" in organic claims has resulted in just 26 percent of U.S. consumers saying they trust organic food labels, according to a new report by market research firm Mintel Group Ltd.

The report, "The Natural/Organic Food Shopper - US," indicates that authenticity and price are purchase deterrents, even among organic shoppers. For example consumers identify natural claims with the term "simple," while organic is associated more with "expensive."

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"Certain consumer demographics are embracing the organic claim on foods and beverages, but this is found significantly more in younger consumers and parents," said Billy Roberts, Mintel senior analyst for food and drink. "Other consumers appear to lack trust in the organic label, and the lack of a uniform regulatory definition for 'natural' in most foods could negatively impact consumer regard for the term going forward."

The report also indicated other factors that are ganging up to thwart growth in the organic category:

  • organics are failing to leverage its healthier perception
  • organic transitional could "water down" organic

Organics too expensive

The report found that 62 percent of U.S. consumers would purchase more organic foods if they were less expensive.

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Just 21 percent of consumers agree that organic foods are worth the extra cost, and only 39 percent of U.S. consumers whose food purchases are at least half organic believe they are worth the extra cost.

Price remains paramount among organic barriers for lower-income households in particular, as they are twice as likely to be buying less organics.

Organics not highly regulated

The organic label is strictly regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), but only 13 percent of U.S. consumers believe it, Mintel's research found.

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"Organic, while relatively clearly defined from a regulatory standpoint, appears largely misunderstood by consumers, suggesting brands could benefit from increasing awareness of exactly what the organic label represents and the strict requirements in attaining the claim," Mintel said.

How healthy are organics?

About one-third of U.S. consumers say they would be motivated to purchase more organic foods if they were proven to be healthier and stayed fresher longer, the report said.

“While consumers overall may be unaware of organics’ traits or the precise benefits of eating organically, the products do enjoy a positive reputation and generally appear to make consumers feel good about their purchase, even if it comes at a higher cost," said Roberts.

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The report said that just 28 percent of U.S. consumers overall report buying "natural/organic products" because they know these products are better for them.

Organic purchasing trends

The report showed that 57 percent of U.S. consumers said they are buying the same amount of organic foods today as they did in 2016, and 34 percent are buying more organic foods in 2017 than a year ago. Nearly a third of U.S. consumers say half or more of the groceries they buy are organic.

Half of U.S. consumers say they are most likely to purchase organic fresh produce such as fruit and vegetables, compared to other food categories like meats/poultry/seafood (41 percent), juice (39 percent) and dairy/milk/yogurt (38 percent).

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29 percent of U.S. consumers say they do not typically buy food and drink with an organic or natural claim, these products are finding their place in shopping carts across the country.

“The fact that consumers are more likely to seek organic fresh produce items not only speaks to the lack of organic options in certain segments, but also to the notion that organic claims simply resonate in some categories more so than in others. Our research shows that organic brands appeal to younger consumers, but there is significant effort required to persuade older generations of the value of organic or natural claims. This indicates that if organic brands can reassure consumers that organic foods are indeed living up to their claims, whether through on-pack messaging or marketing campaigns, it could be a boon to the category,” said Roberts.

Nat'l brand vs. private label

The report also said that, for many, brand name outweighs an organic label as just 14 percent of U.S. consumers agree that an organic claim is more important than a specific brand.

"More affordable organic options would do well with consumers and more private-label options are emerging that could help push prices down," Roberts said. "While consumers pay attention to brand names, in their eyes, there is little difference between national brand and store-brand organic options. As such, a considerable price difference could compel consumers to turn away from national brands in favor of a comparable option with an organic claim."

The report said 27 percent of Americans overall agree they would purchase more organic foods if there were more organic options from major brands. Meanwhile, 13 percent of those who purchase organic foods shop through online channels, including both delivery and in-store pickup.


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