Organics have been a part of the mainstream market for years now, and while the shoppers still see them as their own category, consumers tend to accept organically grown produce as an “added choice” to fruit and vegetable selections. “Consumers prefer organically produced food because of their concerns regarding health, the environment, and animal welfare, and they show a willingness to pay the price premiums established in the marketplace,” reports the USDA Economic Research Service.
The Organic Trade Association’s 2019 Organic Industry Survey shows that organic sales climbed 5.9% over last year. “The U.S. organic market in 2018 broke through the $50 billion mark for the first time, with sales hitting a record $52.5 billion, up 6.3% from the previous year,” according to the 2019 Organic Industry Survey.
As the numbers continue to climb, shoppers are realizing that organics fill a niche for not just health-conscious consumers but for most everyday Americans. Many shoppers report purchasing organics, but the majority do not purchase organic produce all the time. Only 27% of consumers surveyed in Organic Fresh Trends 2020 said they always bought certain items as organic. Those who were the most likely to do so were consumers who made up the “all other” demographic group, followed by those with one or two children living at home and those earning more than $100,000 annually.
General trends in Organic Fresh Trends 2020 show that Asian shoppers are more likely than those in other demographic groups to buy organic fresh fruits and vegetables overall. This may be because this segment of the population tends to buy more produce in total than those from other ethnic backgrounds. Shoppers in the youngest segment of the population (under 40) and those in the oldest age group (age 59+) were also among the most likely overall to select organics over traditionally grown produce. Health conditions and income probably play into these trends.
Greens Most Popular as Organic
Shoppers tend to look for organic produce when purchasing greens, particularly kale and spinach. More than four in 10 shoppers (43%) said they selected organic kale at least some of the time. In fact, kale was the No. 1 item of those studied in Organic Fresh Trends 2020 that was purchased periodically as organic. Asian and Hispanic consumers, along with those younger than age 50, comprised the groups most likely to make a periodic organic kale purchase. Spinach moved up to second on the list, climbing from the No. 5 spot last year (although the percentage of buyers who said they chose organic spinach periodically was exactly the same as last year).
One-fifth of kale buyers said they always selected organic product, making it the most popular for organic-only purchases for the second consecutive year. Southern shoppers and those age 40-49 were among the most likely to always buy organic kale.
Nearly as many shoppers (19%) said they always bought organic artichokes, and 15% of consumers said they chose organic spinach every time.
Figuring in Price
Consumers have become more accepting of the higher price of organic produce as the years progress. However, the higher cost remains a primary inhibitor to organic produce purchases. Nearly half of all respondents to Organic Fresh Trends 2020 (46%) said that they would buy organic fruits and vegetables if price was not an issue. Asian shoppers, those living in the West, and those age 50-58 were the most likely groups overall to say they would buy organic produce if price was not a factor.
Of those consumers who said they were willing to pay more for organic fruits and vegetables, nearly seven in 10 (68%) said they would pay up to 25% more for organics over the cost of traditionally grown produce. One-third of buyers said they would pay up to 10% over the cost of conventionally grown product—shoppers age 50 and older were most likely to do so. Meanwhile, 35% of consumers said they would shell out 11% to 24% more for organics, with Hispanics and those in the “all other” ethnic group being the most likely to do so.
Eleven percent of respondents said they would not pay higher prices for organic fresh produce. Consumers age 59 and older were the top group that said they would not pay any more for organic produce; it’s possible that fixed income in retirement may play a role in their buying decisions.