Natural Foods Merchandiser

Report shows consumers savvy about organics

Consumers shopping for natural and organic foods are savvy about labels, according to new reports from The Hartman Group and Delicious Living magazine in partnership with iVillage. However, these consumers may think natural means “better tasting” and “more nutritious.”

In a study conducted between February 15 and 24, 2010 by Delicious Living magazine and iVillage, an NBC Universal website geared towards women, the majority of the 5,000 respondents “understood the value proposition of organic,” said Nancy Coulter-Parker, director of content/business strategy & development; consumer portfolio of New Hope Natural Media. “But they think natural is more nutritious, tastes better and is more low calorie. With consumers thinking natural tastes better, [the natural market] is gaining ground.”

According to The Hartman Group, 75 percent of consumers use organic products, 22 percent monthly. These consumers view “natural” and “organic” as complementary attributes, according to Arwen Kimmel, lead analyst for the report.

“Consumers think organic is what happened to the food on the farm. Natural is understood as to what happens to the food after it’s grown. It is seen as a reduction in processing steps,” Kimmel said in a April 8 webinar.

Sales of organic foods are expected to increase, according to both Coulter-Parker and Kimmel. As consumers reach out more for authentic experiences, and have more income to invest, organics will again start gaining more of the market share.

“Gen Y (the 18 to 28 year olds) get the value of organic, but are limited by income,” Coulter-Parker said. “They are more likely to try new brands. I would expect as they get more disposable income, we may actually see a growth in organic because they do understand it. Interest in organic declines with age, as older generations didn’t have organic or information about natural foods.”

As organic and natural sales grow, Kimmel said there will be an increased demand for labels that go “beyond organic and natural.” Consumers will be drawn to terms like “free range,” “local,” “fresh,” and especially “clean.”

“Consumers tell us over and over they’d like to learn more about the companies they buy from,” Kimmel said. Manufacturers can do this by offering mission statements on their packages, and providing information that allows a shopper to connect personally with the company, she said.

“Consumers in the core have moved beyond organic. They still see organic as a positive thing, they still look for it but in the end it no longer satisfies all their social, environmental, and personal health standards,” Kimmel said.

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