U.S. consumers believe organic means healthier

May 13, 2015

Research from Mintel shows that Americans appear confused about the benefits of organics, with many perceiving the organic products as healthier options than non-organic counterparts. Overall, 72% of U.S. consumers purchase organic food and/or beverages for health or nutrition reasons, while slightly fewer (69%) factor environmental or ethical reasons in their purchase decision. Only 31% of women and 29% of men purchase organics because they are less processed than their non-organic counterparts, and 20% of women and 16% of men purchase organics because organic companies treat animals more ethically.

Meanwhile, over half of U.S. consumers (51%) agree that labeling something as organic is an excuse to charge more. Generation X (51%) and the Swing Generation (57%)—people born from the mid-1920s to the early 1940s—in particular regard an organic label as a premium price tag. The distrust many Americans have of organic food and drinks extends beyond issues with the price. Only 39% of Gen X trust that organic-labeled products are actually organic. This number decreases to 35% of Swing Generation consumers. Furthermore, only four in 10 Millennials (40%), the demographic that most supports organics, recognize that organic products are highly regulated. More than a third of all consumers (38%) regard organic as a marketing term with no real value or definition.

“Our research finds half of consumers say labeling something as organic is an excuse to charge more. Considering the typically higher cost of organic foods and beverages, consumers are increasingly hard pressed to justify the added expense,” said Billy Roberts, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel. “As such, sales have hit something of a plateau, where they likely will remain until consumers have a clear reason to turn to organics. This could come in the form of a growing number of lower-cost organic options, bringing a new degree of competition to the category.”

Whether due to a lack of availability, the increased price, or simply a lack of desire for organics’ perceived attributes, organic food and beverages clearly have room to grow, as only a third of consumers (33%) indicate they purchased a food or beverage labeled as organic within the last three months. However, organics consumption is greatest among the younger generations with nearly half of Millennials (49%) choosing organic for at least half of their food/beverage purchases, a drastic comparison to the 43% of Gen X, 51% of Baby Boomers, and 58% of the Swing Generation who consume no organic products.

Mintel report