Post Categories: June 2014

Trending Tastes: What’s in a Name? Organics Explained

june2014-tastes-picThe popularity of organic foods has been steadily on the rise over the last decade, thanks in large part to the efforts and offerings of specialty retailers like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Sales declined slightly during the recession, but are back on an accelerated growth track—projected to reach $35 billion by the end of the year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). A new report from Daymon Worldwide shows that growth is expected to come not just from higher income households with the means to shop at specialty retailers, but also lower income households as well.

In turn, more mainstream retailers are looking to add organic offerings to their shelves, and even conventional CPGs are aiming to deliver organic alternatives. But are all organic offerings created equal? Turns out, the answer is no. And that makes a difference to consumers.

The USDA governs the labeling of organic foods and allows for three possible levels of organic purity, so to speak. Foods can be labeled “contains organic ingredients” if they are made up of at least 70 percent certified organic ingredients. They can be labeled “organic” and carry the USDA Organic seal if they contain at least 95 percent certified organic ingredients. To be labeled “100 percent organic” and carry the USDA Organic seal, they must be fully certified organic—meaning they are produced without antibiotics, growth hormones, most conventional pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, bioengineered seeds or ionizing radiation.

This lack of what many see as potential harmful additives is the main draw for most consumers. While scientific studies on the nutritional differences between organic and conventional foods have been mixed, many consumers see certified organics, at a minimum, as less risky. They also see organic foods as better for society as a whole, says marketing research firm The Hartman Group. That’s largely because organic farming practices are easier on the environment—reducing pollution, conserving water and maintaining soil quality. In general, the greater the level of organic purity, the greater the benefits are to people and society.

A survey by the Organic Trade Association showed that within the next decade, organic industry experts expect organic offerings to extend to all channels—from grocery and convenience stores to vending machines and fast-food restaurants. With the emphasis consumers place on health and safety, it seems likely that those who strive for the 100 percent organic label and USDA seal stand to reap the greatest rewards.