The organic demographic has expanded significantly over the past 10 years, and for several reasons, said Samantha Cabaluna, vice president of communications and marketing for Earthbound Farm, San Juan Bautista, Calif.
Increasing availability of organic in certain categories and a closer price gap between organic and conventional produce offers “more realistic options for people,” she said.
A 2012 U.S. General Population Organic Segmentation analysis from the Natural Marketing Institute, Harleysville, Pa., defined 20% of the general population as “devoteds,” who are committed to organics and willing to pay a premium; 25% are “temperates,” described as pragmatists with “moderate organic attitudes”; and 16% are “reluctants,” who don’t trust organic labeling or don’t believe organics are worth the money.
Education is the No. 1 driver for organics, Cabaluna said.
Education often, but not always, correlates with income, she said.
For example, organic consumption ranks high among consumers who have a college education, but students or young college-educated consumers may not yet have attained a high income level, she said.
According to a 2011 NPR-Thomson Reuters Health Poll, about 53% of the respondents said if price is no object, they prefer organic, Cabaluna said.
“If you take price out of the equation, you don’t have to weigh the value so much,” she said.
“Even if it’s not a super-high priority for them, if they don’t have to spend more money, then why not?”
Today’s organic consumer is a younger, more affluent consumer, said Gary Wishnatzki, president and chief executive officer of Wish Farms, Plant City, Fla.
He cited as an example a recent strawberry sale for charity in which Wish Farms participated at the University of Florida, where students seemed to request organics the most.
“That bodes well for the future,” he said.
The organic demographic is changing, said Patrick Stewart, operations manager for Earl’s Organic Produce, San Francisco.
“From a trending perspective, wealthy, affluent people have the means to trend toward organic,” he said, but as organic produce becomes more available and more affordable, its popularity is trickling down to base consumers.
The core organic customer that created and sustains the movement will buy organics no matter what the economic situation, Stewart said.
Organics are especially popular in major metropolitan areas along the East and West coasts, said Matt Seeley, vice president of marketing for The Nunes Co. Inc., Salinas, Calif.
Consumers in towns surrounding colleges and universities, like Austin, Texas, and Bloomington, Ind., also lean toward organics.
“They are really showing good, strong organic growth that matches higher levels of education and income,” he said.
Organics have become “very mainstream,” especially in the salad category because the price differential is so small — typically 10% — Cabaluna said. Occasionally, the price of organics is the same as the price of conventional.
About 24% of the overall salad category is organic, she said. But for the tender leaf portion, 54% of sales are organic.