For over 25 years The Hartman Group has been charting the consumer-driven organic and natural marketplace – our newest report sees ongoing growth across organic food and beverage categories as consumer involvement intensifies.

Organic 2022 Cover

As a continuation of The Hartman Group’s long-running syndicated research on the organic market stretching back over 25 years, our newest report, Organic 2022: Then, Now, Next, explores the transformation of organic from a niche category based in a social movement to a mainstream marker of quality across food and beverage categories.

Through trended data and qualitative consumer perspectives, the report explores how organic has transitioned into the mainstream through USDA organic certification, and the challenges it currently faces, including consumers seeking more in terms of forward-leaning approaches to personal, community, and environmental health. What’s next for organic may be two-fold: mainstream consumers crave greater accessibility in organic—demonstrating strong growth ahead for the segment—while highly-engaged consumers and producers look to additional certifications and health attributes to extend the original promise of organic beyond current USDA standards.

Organic 2022: Then, Now, Next finds that after a surge in the beginning of the pandemic, the organic market continues its decades-long growth trajectory via expansion into the mainstream, making organic foods and beverages across categories more accessible than ever before in terms of both availability and price.

However, the expansion of organic has also fueled a paradox of choice wherein consumers are left to navigate an increasingly complex decision-making landscape around healthy and organic food options.

Highlights include:

  • Confronted with greater choice and a heightened degree of anxiety around health, many consumers turn to organic for healthier options, though detailed knowledge of USDA Organic certification criteria has not necessarily increased.
  • Organic has become much more accessible in recent years, both in terms of broad availability across all channels and in terms of declining price premiums (noted by long-term organic consumers), though price is still a barrier for many.
  • As organic has expanded, the category adoption pathway has remained largely consistent, with produce, dairy, and meat as the key entry points to organic along with other special categories (e.g., baby food, plant-based alternatives).

Hallmarks pointing to future growth and evolution are reflected in consumer involvement with organics as measured by the reach of organic purchasing in over 21 food and beverage categories analyzed in the report. 

For example:

  • 60% of consumers buying fresh produce say they’ve bought organics in that category in the past three months, followed by 55% indicating purchases of organics in plant-based meat alternatives and 49% indicating purchases of organics in plant-based dairy alternatives.
  • Categories of organic purchasing showing significant increases and momentum from 2020 include fresh meats and seafood, refrigerated dairy foods, packaged foods, pet food and treats, packaged foods and packaged frozen foods.

What’s Next?

As to what’s next, Organic 2022: Then, Now, Next predicts that with the organic market now mature, and continuing to expand in depth and breadth, both organic producers and retailers have an opportunity to innovate with confidence, offering products across all categories that would appeal to both mainstream and Core-trending (e.g., highly organic-engaged) consumers and solve for needs they have but feel they cannot currently address.

Opportunities also exist in food service: While consumer demand for organic at a retailer and brand level continues to increase, there is also a growing desire for organic at everyday food service locations as well as at higher-end dining locations.

More Information:

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 including highlights from the executive summary, report chapters and implications and recommendations can be accessed here.