Consumers Are Cynical About Organic Food

A recent report found that young American shoppers are willing to pay more for organic food, even though many of them don’t trust the label.

By Nancy Dorman-Hickson

A recent report found that young American shoppers are willing to pay more for organic food, even though many don’t trust the label. Consulting group BFG surveyed 300 shoppers, 69% of whom said they have bought organic dairy, poultry, meat, fruits and/or vegetables. Yet 53% don’t trust that a product labeled organic actually is.

While many of these consumers believe deceptive practices are at work—75% agree that “organic” is used as a marketing tool—only one-fifth of the respondents correctly explained how the USDA defines the category, which is basically foods produced without synthetic additives, irradiation and GMO ingredients. A recent survey of Canadian consumers also revealed confusion. For instance, about one-third of respondents believed that no pesticides—including natural ones—are used in organic production.

Still, retail sales of organic foods in both countries continues to grow. Between 2006 and 2012, sales of organic products in Canada grew from about $1 billion to more than $3.5 billion. In the States, sales jumped 11.5% from 2012 to 2013, to $35.1 billion—the fastest growth rate in five years.