In 2012, the Organic Trade Association embarked on a campaign to destroy six myths associated with organics.
Among the perceived misperceptions:
- Organic products are too pricey;
- consumers are ambivalent about genetically modified organisms;
- organic is a niche market;
- organic farming can’t feed the world;
- concerns about chemical use are overblown;
- the category has no job growth.
Nutrition is another issue
Marketers said they have made progress in debunking some of those perceived misperceptions, but Simcha Weinstein, marketing director at Bridgeport, N.J.-based Albert’s Organics said there are additional battles to win.
One is on nutrition.
He cited a study that came out in September in which scientists from Stanford University, who had compared the nutritional merits of conventional and organic produce, concluded that fruits and vegetables labeled organic were, on average, no more nutritious than their conventional counterparts that tend to be far less expensive, nor were they any less likely to be contaminated by dangerous bacteria like E. coli.
“This study has been generating quite a bit of buzz over the past several months and has both sides of the organic debate hitting the keyboard with fury and vigor,” Weinstein said.
Weinstein voiced strong objections to the findings.
“People don’t necessarily choose organic foods because they want high nutritional content with every bite,” he said.
“They choose organic foods because they wish to avoid pesticides and other harmful chemicals in their food choices,” he said.
There are sustainability advantages as well, Weinstein said.
“Organic is chosen because it’s better for our land, better for our water, better for our energy supply, and simply a better way to create a sustainable food system for our planet,” he said.
Comparing nutrient content between organic and conventional is not “the best indication” of which is the healthier choice, Weinstein said.
Making some progress
Other marketers say the organic industry has made progress in combatting misperceptions about the category.
“I’d say the industry has done a good job. The conversations they have with retailers have helped,” said Jim Roberts, vice president of sales with Naples, Fla.-based berry grower-shipper Naturipe Farms LLC.
Sales numbers have helped, too, Roberts said.
Knowledgeable retailers are helping to fuel sales, said Matt Seeley, vice president of marketing with Salinas, Calif.-based vegetable grower-shipper The Nunes Co.
“I think, like anything else, it’s further education being transferred from growers to supermarkets,” he said.
There’s only one way to change perceptions, said Tom Deardorff, president of Oxnard, Calif.-based Deardorff Family Farms
“Performance,” he said. “The industry is maturing enough to dispel a lot of those myths.”