Organic produce in a grocery store.

You may have seen the recent FoodDive article on significant amendments coming to the USDA’s National Organic Program. We’re deeply passionate about the topic of organic, so we can’t help but share our thoughts on the implications of this news for the food and beverage industry.

Inside the headline:

  • The amendments known as Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) and Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards (OLPS) Rule will come into effect in March 2024, marking the most comprehensive update to the USDA’s National Organic Program since its inception in 1990.
  • These amendments aim to combat organic fraud, enhance recordkeeping, improve animal welfare standards, and boost transparency in the organic certification process.
  • Industry experts are hopeful that these updates will help protect the integrity of organic certification and restore consumer confidence in USDA organic products.

Our POV:

It’s no secret that the credibility of organic products has come under fire in recent years, so enhanced recordkeeping and improved animal welfare standards are critical steps in repairing organic’s reputation. However, more comprehensive measures may still be necessary to truly meet the evolving expectations of consumers.

As of 2022, 58% of U.S. consumers perceived the USDA organic certification to be weaker now than in the past (jumping 5 points since 2020).* 79% desired more stringent animal welfare requirements within the certification process.* This erosion of trust has tangible effects on consumer behavior:

  • 18% of organic buyers reported that “not being able to tell whether they’re really organic” is a barrier to buying more organic products.*
  • As for non-organic buyers, 18% reported they don’t buy organic products because they “can’t tell whether they’re organic.*”

Today, consumers’ values go beyond basic organic certification standards. They’re conscious of both what they put into their bodies and the broader impacts of their consumption choices. They want more stringent supply chain requirements, improved worker welfare, restoration of soil health, and increasing biodiversity. Programs like Regenerative Organic Certification hold significant promise here (we talked all about it in a recent podcast interview).

These far-reaching consumer preferences raise the question: will the new USDA amendments be sufficient to address consumer concerns, or are they merely a Band-Aid for deeper challenges facing the organic food industry?

*Source: Organic 2022: Then, Now, Next, Hartman Group

Diving deeper: upcoming research on the future of organic

There’s so much more to uncover on the next evolution of organic, which is why we’ll be fielding all new quantitative and qualitative research on the topic in our Q2 syndicated study, Beyond Organic 2024. Learn more about the study here or reach out to Melissa Abbott, one of our many experts on the topic: