Organic Trade Association's (OTA's) newly released 2013 U.S. Families' Organic Attitudes and Beliefs Study, shows that more parents than ever are buying organic. While parents purchasing organics is nothing new, this new report shows that a whopping eight in ten parents are now shopping organically, at least some of the time, making them a key organic shopper demographic.
Christine Bushway, OTA's CEO and Executive Director, notes, "More and more parents choose organic foods primarily because of their desire to provide healthful options for their children." Some key points in the new report include:
- A majority of customers who buy organic foods are purchasing more items than a year ago.
- New organic shoppers now represent 41% of all families, so interest in organic food is still on the rise.
- Produce is still in the lead when it comes to organic purchases. A full 97% of organic shoppers say they have purchased organic fruits or vegetables in the past six months.
- Breads and grains, dairy and packaged foods are also top purchases for organic families.
- Families who buy organic spend more per shopping trip than other families.
As in past studies, almost half of all families who buy organic say they do because they feel organics are healthier for the whole family. Parents also want to avoid pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones and GMOs.
The 2013 U.S. Families' Organic Attitudes and Beliefs Study is available for purchase at OTA.
Natural Foods Merchandiser has a cool new blog series called Secret Shopper. Each month, a NFM secret shopper goes incognito into a natural products store with a question and then they see how the store answers. Then NFM offers tips about what happened, which can help you improve your customer service.
This week, the secret shopper asked, "How is organic better for the environment?" The store clerk gave some good answers, thus doing well when it came to answering the question. The clerk told the shopper specific facts about how pesticides do harm to the environment but didn't really push the other benefits of organics. The NFM team also felt the clerk should have specified "synthetic" pesticides, as some natural pesticides are approved for organic production.
This is a great series for retailers, but also useful for anyone who has to discuss the organic industry with customers.
Go read the whole post to see how the clerk answered and what NFM thought: NFM Secret Shopper: How is organic better for the environment?
Canada Organic Trade Association (COTA) reports that Canada's organic market grew to $3.7 billion in 2012 (wow), with national sales of certified organic food and non-alcoholic beverages reaching $3 billion.
This is a big deal. To put it into perspective, consider that U.S. sales of organic food and beverages averaged about $26.7 billion in 2010, so $3.7 billion is nothing to sneeze at. According to COTA, Canadian organic food market value has tripled since 2006. It's estimated that a diverse consumer base is driving industry growth and a full 58% of Canadians buy organic products every single week. Seriously, wow. This might be a good time for U.S. organic businesses to take advantage of the US-Canada Organic Equivalence Arrangement (US-COEA).
Matthew Holmes, Executive Director of the Canada Organic Trade Association, notes, "At the industry's urging, the government implemented strict national standards and label requirements in 2009 to uphold consumer confidence in organic claims, so it's tremendously gratifying to see this result in such strong market growth and continued consumer commitment to organic."
The full BC report and national highlights are available at www.ota-canada.ca.
If you're a brand new organic certification applicant, failing to control commingling and contamination may cost you your certification. As an already certified organic business, a commingling violation may cost you a fine or may mean that you can't sell some of your products.
In any case, to avoid problems with NOP and to uphold organic integrity, it's smart to have some commingling prevention tactics in place. See some ideas in the links below:
The new Organic Integrity Quarterly is available now. There's a lot of information packed into the April quarterly, but most significant is the official announcement of the new 'Sound and Sensible' initiative.
The 'Sound and Sensible' program popped up in March at the NOP website and it's a really nice new initiative focused on streamlining organic certification, improving organic integrity, and making sure consumers are getting consistent, truthful information about organics.
Also included in this edition of Organic Integrity, is a Q&A about fertilizers in organic agriculture, facts about crop insurance for organic growers, an update on 2012 organic export growth and much more. Read this issue of the Organic Integrity Quarterly (pdf).
- Classification of Materials (NOP 5033)
- Materials for Organic Crop Production (NOP 5034)
The point of the Classification of Materials draft guidance (pdf) is to help material reviewers classify substances more consistently into proper categories. In turn, this will help determine how a substance fits into the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. There are documents available about synthetics or non-synthetics and agricultural or non-agricultural substances used in processed or multi-ingredient organic products.
Materials for Organic Crop Production (pdf) guidance applies to all accredited certifying agents, material evaluation programs, and operations that are certified or exempt from the requirement of certification and aims to provide transparent and clear clarification on natural and synthetic materials that are allowed for organic crop production. You can check out the guidance for decisions on the status of materials such as fertilizers, soil amendments, and pest control materials in organic crop production.
Summer is on the way, so if you sell organic berries on your farm or in your grocery store, it's time to start figuring out some creative marketing ideas.
Some key tips: Appeal to impulse buyers, design pretty displays, offer samples and think outside the produce area, meaning, many people eat berries with cereal, so why not stock some in a cooler near the cereal. Check out 10 creative ways to sell more delicious organic summer berries to learn more.
Environmental Working Group (EWG) has just released their 2013 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce. This is a great document to refer your customers to if you're selling organics. The guide, as always, highlights produce containing the highest and lowest levels of pesticides, known as the "Dirty Dozen" and the "Clean Fifteen."
There weren't any huge changes from the 2012 list, but a few key changes were made on this year's list.
For the second year running, EWG has expanded the Dirty Dozen list with a Plus category to highlight two crops - domestically-grown summer squash and leafy greens, specifically kale and collards. According to EWG, summer squash and leafy greens did not meet traditional Dirty Dozen criteria but "Were commonly contaminated with pesticides exceptionally toxic to the nervous system."
Apples once again contained more pesticides than any other fruit. Also on the Dirty Dozen were celery, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, grapes, spinach, bell peppers, cucumbers, potatoes, peaches, imported nectarines, and new this year, hot peppers. Each and every sample of imported nectarines tested positive for pesticides, while the average potato had much higher levels of pesticides than any other food crop tested. Other bad news included the fact that single grapes and bell peppers tested positive for 15 pesticides.
Get the full Dirty Dozen list at EWG and see which produce had the lowest levels of pesticides as well.
Oddly, the Harris Poll found that concern about the state of the environment is on the rise, but they also found that consumers aren't willing to pay more money in order to create positive change. Most alarming for organic producers and handlers is that most Americans are seriously confused about organics. Some key points from the poll are below:
- More than half (59%) of Americans think that labeling food or other products as organic is an excuse to charge more for products.
- Males were more skeptical about organics than women. A full 63% of men stated that organic labeling is just marketing hype and an excuse to charge more.
- More than half of Americans (55%) think organic food is healthier than non-organic food.
- 41% of Americans said organic food tastes better and is fresher than non-organic food.
- Just 23% of Americans had heard of and/or knew what the the term "dirty dozen" meant.
The results of this poll say a couple of things to me. One, folks who sell organics need to do a much better job when it comes to educating the public about the benefits, facts and myths surrounding organics. Two, companies who are using organic as a marketing scheme should be called out and told to knock it off. I personally think NOP should specifically address fake organic and poor labeling of non-agricultural items but so should real organic producers and organic advocates.
Interested in starting an organic Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) business? A CSA can be a lot of work but it can also be profitable and a great way to get support for growing organic.
Resources for Starting an Organic CSA has advice about:
- Growing organic.
- Pros and cons of running a CSA.
- Ideas for organizing payments and delievries.
- CSA business guides.
- And more.