Organic produce can help retailers build store loyalty, because consumers of organic fruits and vegetables tend to come back again and again, sources said.
Consumers of organic produce typically are loyal shoppers, said Addie Pobst, coordinator of imports, sustainability, organic integrity and food safety for Viva Tierra Organic Inc., Sedro-Woolley, Wash.
“Organic customers are very loyal. When someone goes organic, we tend to see that they increase their level of organic purchasing year over year,” she said.
Doug Classen, sales manager for The Nunes Co., Salinas, Calif., agreed.
“Organic customers tend to come with an agenda in place. They are very loyal customers,” he said.
Classen said loyal organic customers translate to a need for a complete program at retail.
“When they come into a store, they are looking for someone that can offer them a complete line of products. That’s what we try to do,” he said.
The Nunes Co. recently added multiple items to its organic line, including several varieties of chard, kale and parsley, as well as sweet baby broccoli and leeks, in an attempt to meet those needs.
Because of these loyal tendencies, suppliers have spent some time determining exactly what type of consumer they are trying to reach.
Roger Pepperl, marketing director at Stemilt Growers Inc., Wenatchee, Wash., said there are two basic groups of shoppers: those that always buy organic, and those that just choose a few organic items.
“For the organic shopper, the consumer that buys all organic products, that number is growing,” he said.
However, Pepperl also said that market demographic is fairly saturated.
“It’s the middle area of organic shoppers that has the biggest growth potential,” he said.
Diane Dempster, organic specialist for Seattle-based wholesaler Charlie’s Produce agreed there is potential for growth by expanding the group of shoppers that regularly choose organics.
She said she’s started to see evidence that growth is already occurring.
“I think new loyalty is developing all the time,” she said. “The hardcore percentage of people who shopped at organic co-ops and used home delivery services are still buying, but now their children and grandchildren are shopping organic, too.”
Those new organic shoppers typically choose a more traditional retail location.
“Consumers that never purchased organic products before are now shopping regularly, and not just at health food stores,” Dempster said.
These new loyal shoppers translate to retailers as a market for a regularly stocked organic section with more than just a few staple items.
Young parents and millennials make up a large portion of the target demographic.
“We see the demographic is typically women with families, who are slightly more educated and slightly more affluent than the average,” Pobst said.
Parents of young children are an especially strong group of shoppers.
“There have been a lot of news stories and research with the idea that pesticides are especially damaging to children, so we see a strong correlation of parents trying to choose organic for their children,” Pobst said.