What do consumers really think of USDA Organic?

At a recent webinar, experts from the Organic Trade Association and NIQ discussed data surrounding consumer perception of the USDA organic label and competing claims. Here's what you should know.

Grace Burleson, Content Marketing Coordinator

April 29, 2024

3 Min Read

In the recent webinar hosted by the Organic Trade Association (OTA), co-CEOs Tom Chapman and Matthew Dillon presented data from the newly published OTA and Euromonitor International report, Consumer Perception of USDA Organic and Competing Label Claims. Likewise, Sherry Frey and Maria Maysonet from NIQ shared data on trends and opportunities in shifting consumer behavior.

Read on for three key takeaways about what consumers think of USDA Organic from this informative session:

Organic is a trusted claim

Consumers who are more familiar with organic attributes are more willing to pay for USDA-certified organic products. Furthermore, consumers trust the certifications they are most familiar with and 70% of consumers trust the USDA organic seal. It's the most trusted agricultural label and the second-most trusted food label, second only to the American Heart Association’s iconic checkmark. 

Consumers who are unaware of organic’s benefits often think that organic does not justify its higher prices. That changes dramatically when that consumer learns about its attributes, which include prohibiting GMOs, growth hormones, antibiotics and most pesticides. Once a consumer becomes more knowledgeable about organic, the justification for paying a premium for organic jumps by some 16%.

Consumers are highly interested in sustainable products

Despite this interest, factors such as cost, lack of clarity, and access can limit their purchases.

NIQ tracks products in the “better for” category, which encompasses products that are better for you, better for the environment and better for society. As consumers increasingly connect personal health with the health of the planet, NIQ has seen more sales growth among products that have “better for” claims—including environmental, sustainable packaging, animal welfare and social responsibility—over the last four years. While inflation affected prices across the store, pricing on “better for” products, including organic, are more resilient and stable.

For consumers struggling with a lack of clarity, the USDA organic seal offers a unique opportunity. As the only federally backed certification that requires transparency at every level and has penalties for fraud, consumers can be confident that products with the USDA organic seal meet clearly defined rules and regulations.

Education is key

There is an untapped opportunity to connect with consumers who are willing to pay for claims that are not widely associated with USDA organic.

The report found that 71% of consumers know that organic products are produced without synthetic toxic pesticides, while only 60% and 59% know that organic products do not use GMOs and artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, respectively.

Consumers are drawn to single-attribute claims and certifications that quickly identify what they seek, such as non-GMO and animal welfare. However, they may not realize that USDA organic encompasses many of those single attribute claims they desire. It is also even easier to search for in a store setting. Retailers and brands need to drive education around the attributes of USDA organic to merge consumer understanding with a willingness to pay a price premium.

It's clear that organic has a robust following with strong growth ahead, and target education campaigns can help close the gaps. The full OTA survey is available for purchase here

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About the Author(s)

Grace Burleson

Content Marketing Coordinator, New Hope Network

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