WASHINGTON, DC — October 18, 2001 — In an effort to achieve more balanced health and nutrition, a growing number of consumers are turning to organic products, according to a new white paper from the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) titled Organic Shoppers May Not Be Who You Think They Are. The study is based on data contained in FMI’s Trends in the United States: Consumer Attitudes & the Supermarket, 2001.

The organic industry has grown from an average of $6 billion in revenue in 1999, to $7.8 billion in 2000, according to the report.

“Supermarkets have seen a steady rise in consumers seeking to achieve better nutrition and overall health. According to this study, many consumers see organic products as being the most natural food available in the stores and thus we have seen a sharp increase in their popularity,” said Janice Jones, director of research at FMI. “While most used to view organic shoppers as a small group of individuals who were considered more nature-conscious and earthy, we see that today’s organic consumers comprise about one-third of all shoppers and represent nearly half of all grocery shoppers in stores that carry organic products.”

According to the report, organic and non-organic shoppers both share and differ in their shopping preferences. However, the key differences can be seen among organic consumers in:

  • Organic shoppers rank high-quality fruits and vegetables as the number one factor in choosing a primary grocery store (90 percent), whereas non-organic shoppers chose a clean/neat store as their top factor (88 percent)
  • Organic shoppers earn a high annual income (35 percent make over $50,000 annually) and spend more money on groceries ($81 on average per week)
  • Organic shoppers are usually more educated (61 percent have some college experience and 10 percent have postgraduate degrees)

In addition, organic shoppers are likely to be women who work more than 20 hours per week (45 percent), and the largest percentage of these shoppers are between the ages of 25-39 (31percent).

Where Organic Shoppers Shop

Of the 1,000 males and females surveyed for the report, 69 percent report that their primary store offers natural or organic foods.   Incidentally, when broken down by region, 77 percent reported more stores in the East carrying organic products in their primary store. This is followed by 76 percent in the West, 70 percent in the South, and 58 percent in the Midwest. Suburban and urban areas also have the highest percentages of natural or organic foods in their primary store, 76 percent and 73 percent respectively.

“The Pacific Coast, the Northeast and college towns remain the most fertile markets for sales of organic products, but other regions of the country are experiencing the fastest rate of growth,” said Jones.

Organic and non-organic shoppers do share similarities in the planning of their grocery trips. Both classes of shoppers look in the newspaper for grocery special fairly often (59 percent) or every time they shop (50 percent). They also use newspaper and magazine circulars and compare prices at different stores. However, non-organic shoppers (80 percent) are more likely to cite low prices as a top factor in selecting a supermarket more often than organic shoppers (72 percent) do. This is perhaps because organic products generally are higher priced than non-organic products.

Interestingly, organic shoppers remain loyal in their shopping habits, only visiting an average of 2.5 grocery stores a month. In comparison, non-organic shoppers visit an average of 3.1 grocery stores in a month.

“Clearly, organic shoppers are much more likely to cite the availability of, and the broad selection of, organic products to be the most important factor in selecting their primary supermarket. They also tend to be much more loyal to one store, indicating that retailers may want to pay particular attention to this group as it grows.”

Meal Preparation

Perhaps the most significant difference between organic and non-organic shoppers is the their use of short cuts, such as bagged salads, pre-cut and cleaned vegetables, or marinated meats. Forty-five percent of organic shoppers use these short cuts at least once a week, compared with 37 percent of non-organic shoppers.

Although they use short cuts, organic shoppers tend to eat home-cooked meals more often than non-organic shoppers. In fact, 41 percent of organic shoppers say that they eat home-cooked mails almost every time they eat, compared with only 30 percent of non-organic shoppers.

Organic shoppers also eat out less often, according to the study. The largest percentage of organic shoppers (40 percent) eats out at full-service restaurants only one to three times a month. Only 31 percent eat out one or two times a week. Most cite the limited availability of menu items prepared with organic products at most full-service restaurants.

To purchase Organic Shoppers May Not Be Who You Think They Are ($10 members/ $25 nonmembers) or for more information, please contact FMI Publication and Video Sales at (202) 452-8444 or visit the FMI website at www.fmi.org.