Private Label Provides Greater Access to Organic and Healthy Foods and Beverages as Consumers Emerge from the Pandemic
With two years of a global health crisis under their belts, consumers are seeking to bolster their health with better-for-you foods and beverages, made more accessible through private label offerings.
The Hartman Group’s latest report, Organic 2022: Then, Now, Next, finds that this trend is not playing out evenly across the population, with differences driven not just by consumer orientation toward healthier, organic, higher-quality foods but also by the way the pandemic affected different consumers and their households. As a result, some now buy less of these better-for-you products.
Increased purchasing of organic (and other better-for-you products) is most often reported by highly involved organic buyers (e.g. “Core” organic consumers) as well as consumers of color, younger, urban, and well-off consumers. 29% of Americans say they are buying more local and natural products compared to prior to the pandemic, followed by 25% and 21% saying they’re buying more organic and non-GMO products respectively. 18% of consumers say they’re purchasing more gluten-free products (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Changes in Better-For-You Purchasing Since Before the Pandemic (Click to Enlarge)
Among Total Respondents - Source: Organic 2022: Then, Now, Next report, The Hartman Group, Inc.
Differences in terms of demographics and household composition reflected variance in who said they were buying more or less of such products: Gen Z, Millennials, households with children less than 18, and households with income of $100,000 a year or more indexed higher in nearly all better-for-you categories as saying they were buying more, while consumers in the lowest income tier and African Americans were most likely to say they now buy fewer organic and better-for-you products. These demographic differences reflect the variable effects that the pandemic has had on different types of households and their ability to seek out types of foods often sold at a premium.
Despite these income and ethnicity-driven inequities, we are seeing a democratization of organic, natural and other better-for-you products—through broader access and lower price premiums. Whereas organic foods were previously sold mainly through premium retailers such as Whole Foods Market, their broad availability across regular grocery, mass, club, and other food outlets today has made them less exclusive, easier to find, and more affordable for the average consumer.
The proportion of organic and natural products found in shopping baskets has been growing, in large part enabled by the ongoing growth of private label brands into organic and other healthy categories within a broad range of retail channels. Private label has played a key role in democratizing organic, changing the way consumers view organic and making organic purchasing accessible to many for the first time. Organic 2022: Then, Now, Next finds that 23% of consumers of consumers say they now buy more organic private label brands than they did prior to the pandemic.
Organic 2022: Then, Now, Next finds that, while some consumers question whether current industrial organic agriculture is doing enough to build a more sustainable food system for the future, the majority welcome the growing availability and affordability of organic products and appreciate stores that do provide a wide organic selection.
The majority of consumers now see private label organic products as equivalent to those offered by longer-standing national brands. Trust in organic brands depends less on whether they are owned by a retailer or a manufacturer and more on the perceived expertise that the company has in organic foods.
This selection can come both from the expansion of organic into additional categories and from innovative products that go beyond the requirements of the USDA Organic certification to meet consumers’ growing desire for foods and beverages that do more for environmental restoration, farm worker support, and animal welfare. Private label can play a role in widening organic reach by providing affordable organic options across a broad range of categories. As more restorative farming practices get more attention and use, trusted private label brands can again use their power to democratize initially niche spaces (often created by mission-driven startup brands) by helping expand consumers’ access to such products.
Organic 2022: Then, Now, Next features unique hybrid analyses of both quantitative and qualitative data drawn from a study-specific survey and virtual interviews. The 119-page report is an essential, investigative research study, providing in-depth analysis and thought-provoking insights backed by a range of data for startups, established companies, investors, and stakeholders across the food and beverage industry. A detailed report overview and order form can be accessed here.