Whole Foods Market(R) Nationwide Survey Reveals More Than Half of Americans Have Sampled Organic Foods and That Food Labels Matter

As Organics Go More Mainstream, Many Seek Them Out as 'Lifestyle Choice' Reflecting Shopper Values

AUSTIN, Texas, Oct. 17 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- More than half (55 percent) of Americans have tried organic foods, and 87 percent of consumers who regularly choose organic products rate them as higher quality than conventional products, according to a just-released nationwide survey* commissioned by Whole Foods Market (Nasdaq: WFMI), the world's largest natural and organic foods supermarket. On the eve of the national standards for organic product labeling being implemented, the survey reveals that two-thirds of organic shoppers (68 percent) are relying primarily on product labels and food manufacturers as their information sources.

The new survey also shows significantly higher taste and quality ratings for organic food by consumers who regularly use organic products suggesting that once sampled, organics become a lifestyle choice. In addition, the survey supports that organics are going mainstream, as the income and education levels of organic shoppers are edging toward the median for consumers nationwide.

"Organic products offer an alternative to consumers who seek to protect the wellness of the environment, their families and themselves. It comes as no surprise to Whole Foods Market that more and more consumers are trying organic products to satisfy their lifestyle needs," said Margaret Wittenberg, vice president, public and governmental affairs for Whole Foods Market.

Overall sales and the numbers of Americans who eat organic food are increasing despite the fact that prices are often higher. Among regular organic shoppers, 78 percent say organic foods taste better and 87 percent agree they are of better quality. This compares to 25 percent of infrequent and non-users who say that organic foods taste better and 38 percent who agree that they are of better quality.

The general perception of organic shoppers has been that they are upper income, educated consumers. As increased numbers of Americans have tried and moved toward more frequent use of organic foods, the study shows they more closely mirror a larger sampling of the nation. For example, the median age for those who have tried or who eat organic foods is 42 years, and 46 percent of them have a household income of $50,000 or less. The National Census median age is 36 years and the median household income is $41,000.

Consumers who infrequently or never eat organic foods are the most likely to say such foods are "too expensive" (78 percent), according to the survey. Price issues significantly decrease among regular users (51 percent) reiterating that once consumers delve into seeking out organics as a lifestyle choice, they value organics more and their price sensitivity goes down, which is most likely to be a reflection of the shoppers' values. Beyond price issues, three-quarters of all consumers surveyed say they would be likely to eat organic foods more often if a larger variety was more readily available.

With the growth of the industry, the price of organic foods is becoming more competitive while availability and variety are increasing. To accommodate consumers who seek value-priced organic options, Whole Foods Market is launching 365 Organic Everyday Value(TM), an entire new family of hundreds of products ranging from produce to juices to pasta sauce to soymilk. 365 Organic Everyday Value products are value-priced everyday staples that offer all the advantages of certified organic foods. The new product line complements the company's Whole Kids(TM) Organic line, the first and only organic foods made especially for -- and taste-tested -- by kids.

To celebrate the mainstreaming of organics and to help consumers better understand the meaning of organic foods and the new national labeling, Whole Foods Market has developed an educational campaign called The Heart of Organics. Throughout all 137 Whole Foods Market stores in the United States and Canada and at www.wholefoodsmarket.com , consumers can find detailed information about the rule and how to preserve organic integrity of products in their own homes. They will also find a special four-page organics insert in subscription copies of the November issues of Cooking Light, Parenting, and Oprah Magazine.

*Survey results from Whole Foods Market online survey conducted through Market Facts E-Nation, with a nationally representative sample of 1,000 respondents in the United States, during the weeks of September 9 and September 16, 2002.

About Whole Foods Market(R)

Founded in 1980 in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods Market is the world's largest natural and organic foods supermarket. In fiscal year 2001, the company had sales of $2.3 billion and currently has 137 stores in the United States and Canada. The Whole Foods Market motto, "Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet"(TM) captures the company's mission to find success in customer satisfaction and wellness, employee excellence and happiness, enhanced shareholder value, community support, and environmental improvement. Whole Foods Market, Bread & Circus(R) and Harry's Farmers Market(R) are all registered trademarks owned by Whole Foods Market and its affiliates. The company employs more than 24,000 team members and has been ranked for five consecutive years as one of the "Top 100 Companies to Work for" in America by Fortune magazine.

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