With “clean eating” gaining momentum as part of the food culture, organic produce provides an easy solution for health-conscious consumers. In fact, 90% of total organic fruit and vegetable sales in 2017—to the tune of $16.5 billion—came from fresh produce sales, according to the Organic Trade Association’s 2018 Organic Industry Survey. Fresh Trends 2019 found that 60% of shoppers said they opted for organics because they wanted to avoid chemicals in their food.
While each person has his or her own motivation for buying organic produce, most people do it to feel good about what they’re putting into their bodies, as the “clean eating” movement suggests. Nearly half of buyers in Fresh Trends 2019 (48%) indicated that “nutrient content/personal health” was a reason they selected organic produce (although there’s no evidence that organics have more nutrients than conventionally grown product). Roughly a third of shoppers (34%) said they felt an environmental responsibility to buy organics.
Shoppers are motivated by a couple of main factors when it comes to buying organics. Consumers said the No. 1 thing they considered was price—they weighed whether the extra cost for organic was worth the advantage to their health. More than half of consumers (57%) said they would buy organic product if price was no object. Of course, shoppers buy with their eyes too. Thirty-seven percent of shoppers said they picked organic because it looked fresher, cleaner or more ripe than conventionally grown produce.
Buyers want to know where to find organics. Nearly two-thirds of consumers (65%) said they preferred that organics be displayed in their own section within the produce department, not interspersed among commodities. Consider promoting “clean eating” on signs in the produce department or in newspaper and online ads to draw shoppers to this category. Shoppers were most likely to source organic fruits and vegetables at their regional supermarket or a specialty market like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods (24% said so). One-fifth of buyers said they picked up organic produce at a chain discount store like Walmart or Target.
Quite a few of those who opt for organic product are pretty heavily invested in it—31% of buyers estimated that 25%-50% of their produce purchases were organic.
Some devoted organic fans shop all organic, all the time. These consumers tend to fall into a few select demographic groups, typically those age 18-39 and those in the top income bracket. Often families with kids were among the most likely to shop exclusively for organic as well, but it depended on the commodity, and there were variances given exact family size.
Kale topped the list as the item that shoppers always bought as organic, followed by specialty mushrooms and blackberries. Blackberries saw the most year-to-year growth when it came to always-organic purchases, up six percentage points from last year. Raspberries and apricots followed close behind.
Asian pears saw the largest decline from last year based on the likelihood of an exclusively organic purchase—down 14 percentage points—but this fruit was one of the least-purchased overall, so a small sample size likely affected this outcome.
Cranberries and eggplant also saw significant dips in the likelihood of shoppers buying them as organic every time they purchased those items.
Many shoppers dabble in organic purchases, even if they’re not committed enough to always buy organic. Consumers were the most likely to buy kale as organic at least some of the time (it topped the list for periodic organic purchases last year, too).
Apricots showed the most year-to-year growth for periodic organic purchases (up 12 percentage points from last year). However, this fuzzy fruit was one of the least purchased overall, so with a small sample size this growth may not be truly representative. More shoppers bought organic honeydew at least some of the time over the past 12 months too, as the likelihood of a melon purchase increased nine percentage points from Fresh Trends 2018.
Blueberries saw the largest drop in the likelihood of a periodic organic purchase, followed by Asian pears and spinach.
Getting shoppers to opt for an organic purchase is not always easy, however.
Onions, cantaloupe and bell peppers were the top items that shoppers never bought as organic, with at least seven in 10 buyers of these items saying they always bought these vegetables as conventionally grown.