Natural Foods Merchandiser

Organic purchasing habits are recession proof

Nearly 40 percent of consumers said they haven’t changed organic product purchasing habits because of the recession, according to a recent survey from market research firm Mintel. Only 3 percent have stopped buying organic products altogether.

“Heavy users of natural and organic food and drink are most likely to indicate they’ve traded down to less expensive organic options,” noted David Browne, senior analyst at Mintel, in a press release. “However, less-frequent consumers of organic products have shown that they haven’t shifted their behavior. This is good news for the organic food and drink market, as this group may begin to buy more once recession-related fears begin to fade.”

A separate survey of product purchasing by Schaumburg, Ill.-based consulting firm SPINS found that organic private labels have become more popular. Organic private labels moved up to the number one brand in one-third of 31 organic grocery categories studied. In most cases, the shift to organic private labels negatively affected loyalty to organic category brands.

Despite consumers’ commitment to organics, Mintel’s survey results indicated that consumer trust in natural and organics has room to grow. Only one-third (33 percent) of Mintel survey respondents trusted the term “natural” on labels and less than half (45 percent) trusted the term “organic.” Roughly 30 percent of respondents said they don’t know if they can trust either term.

“The natural and organic food industry has an opportunity to instill trust and educate consumers as we work our way out of this recession,” commented Browne of Mintel.

Although sales of organic food and beverages declined slightly in 2009 (-0.3 percent), and by year end Mintel predicts retail sales of about $6.2 billion, Mintel predicted organic food and beverage sales to reach nearly $8 billion by 2012, with growth of 28 percent from 2010-12.

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