The Culture of Organic Today: Who Buys Organic and Why
Our minds are preoccupied with the impact of COVID-19 on how we live and work — and understandably so. But in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic, consumers still want quality food, and for many consumers, organic remains one of the most prominent and significant markers of quality in foods and beverages in the U.S. today.
Since 1996, The Hartman Group has documented the organic marketplace from consumer and food culture perspectives. In recent years, we have witnessed the advance of organic products into new categories even as organic foods and beverages become more affordable to the mainstream American consumer.
Today, the organic marketplace continues to evolve.
Fielded prior to the coronavirus pandemic, our Organic & Beyond 2020 report extends previous work to not only look at what is currently transpiring but also explore new elements on the horizon. We see emerging in consumers’ minds an alliance of the quality and type of food they consume with the rapidly rising concerns about climate change and other sustainability issues.
Here, we bring you up to date on this burgeoning market, who buys organic now and what’s next.
The World of Organic
The Hartman Group’s World of Organic segmentation helps explain consumer variation in attitudes and behaviors surrounding organic. With the near ubiquity of organic food and beverages, 83% of consumers engage with organic in some way.
• The Core are the most intensely involved. As the trendsetters and early adopters, they are the most knowledgeable regarding issues surrounding organic products and the most active purchasers.
• Inner Mid-level consumers aspire to Core attitudes and behaviors but pragmatically apply them with less consistency and reach.
• Outer Mid-level consumers engage with organic products as well, often motivated by fear of unknown consequences of conventional food as well as by status — “everyone is doing it.”
• Periphery consumers prioritize other concerns but still know some general principles and occasionally incorporate organic products.
Organic Food & Beverage Usage Frequency
Consumer use of organic holds steady with over a quarter of consumers reporting using organics at least weekly.
Millennials and those who are highly engaged in organic report higher usage frequency of organic.
These trends point to a mature organic market within which distinctions, associations, and purchase motivations continue to change and vary, depending on consumer segment and age.
Primary Reasons for Buying Organic Food & Beverage
The free-from health and safety associations consumers hold with organic continue to be compelling purchase motivations. Perceptions of health and safety are top reasons why consumers choose to purchase organic. Many also identify organic to be a marker of a quality product that tastes better and fulfills nutritional needs.
The Organic and Beyond 2020 report contains more in-depth insights as the main reasons why consumers buy organic food and beverage products.
Consumers’ attitudes toward GMOs reflect a much broader shift in food culture — today’s consumers aspire to eating food that is closer to its natural form and less changed by human manipulation. Our Organic and Beyond 2020 report finds that awareness of GMOs is near universal with 43% of consumers saying that they actively avoid them.
Soil health is a unifying factor across the three key drivers of organic, connecting better flavor, better nutrition, and better ecology.
• Better nutrition. Healthier soil indicates better and more nutrient-dense food. A healthier soil microbiome = healthier human microbiome. Pesticide-free soil is absent of potentially harmful negatives.
• Better taste. Healthier soil implies more flavorful food. The link between soil and taste leads consumers to further culinary discovery. Farming methods attentive to soil health signal a higher-quality, more distinctive product.
• Better ecology. Soil-centered farming methods sequester more carbon, reducing emissions. Healthier soil promotes biodiversity and more disaster-resilient land.
About the Organic and Beyond 2020 report
Organic and Beyond 2020 provides a critical update to The Hartman Group’s long-running syndicated research series on the organic market and natural foods movement, delivering trended data and informed perspectives on consumer attitudes and behaviors surrounding the current organic landscape with an eye to future-oriented developments. Get report