Organic Food Demand Rises

While demand for organic food has been rising steadily for more than two decades, the last year has seen unprecedented growth.

While demand for organic food has been rising steadily for more than two decades, the last year has seen unprecedented growth. The organic food industry is currently benefiting from a pandemic boost, although the growth shows no signs of slowing. 75% of all US supermarkets now carry organic products, and that number is expected to rise. 

In the US, Wholefoods has started limiting the number of customers due to increased demand, while major organic retailers from the UK to India have seen growth of 25-30% in the last year. The breadth of organic products has also increased dramatically, with many conventional brands adopting an organic label. 

This year, Anheuser-Busch used a Super Bowl commercial slot, viewed by 102 million people, to highlight an organic light beer offering. They incorporated a compelling call-to-action: help farmers transition to organic farming by buying organic beer. 

The ad makes a crucial point: when consumers choose organic, the agricultural landscape can be changed forever. Consumers are voting for organic food with their dollars more than ever before.

Organic Food Benefits

Consumers now understand that organic food not only protects their health from damaging chemicals, but in many cases offers more vitamins, minerals, and trace nutrients than conventionally grown produce. The primary source of increased demand is awareness. 

In addition, the reduction of exposure to chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers, and heavy metals carries long-term health benefits. As consumers are increasingly aware of the health consequences of pesticide and heavy metal exposure – from cancer to autoimmune disease – the choice for organic is obvious. 

People turn to organic for increased nutrition, reduced toxic exposure, or just to “get healthy”. Some note increased energy while others find it easier to lose weight, but the vast majority choose organic food because it is better for their family and the planet. 

Organic Food Production 

Organic food makes up about 6% of all food sold in the USA, up from 3% in 2008. However, organic farmland comprises just 1% of all US farmland. In order to transition to organic, farmers must adopt organic practices for three years before certification. This presents the most significant hurdle in organic growth.

In that time, the products cannot be labeled as organic, presenting a financial hurdle for many farmers who would like to transition to organic production. The transitional organic label is one potential solution, but more incentives are needed to help farmers switch to organic production. 

Organic Food Opportunities

From an industry perspective, the increased demand for organic food presents enormous opportunities. While the food industry averages growth of just two to three percent a year, the organic food industry is seeing growth many times that. Businesses that support farmers and producers to meet the increasing consumer demand for organic products can expect consequential growth. 

New research shows that organic production produces real and long-lasting economic benefits for farmers. That means that the increased consumer demand is able to help businesses achieve the triple bottom line: better for people, the planet, and profits.

Organic Growth Sectors

Within the organic range, beverages, like the above-mentioned beer, are an area seeing especially strong growth. Generally consumers are willing to spend more on craft and custom beverage products. Other areas that present significant opportunities include organic chocolate, dairy products, vegan dairy alternatives, and produce. 

Already, organic produce makes up 15% of all produce sales in the United States and that number is expected to rise. While organic packaged products continue to dominate many supermarket aisles, organic fruits and vegetables are predicted to remain the most lucrative organic sector.  

Drivers of Growth

The growth of demand for organic food has been spurred, largely, by millennials with an increased disposable income who are starting families. This tech-savvy generation is more highly educated on the dangers of conventional production and want to invest in the health of their families and the future of the planet. When they have children, they choose organic, driving change for the whole family. 

The pandemic of the last year has further amplified this change across generations, highlighting the connection between nutrition and health. The pandemic led to a surge in purchase of products perceived as healthy: superfoods, supplements, and organic fruits and vegetables. Experts expect the changes made during the pandemic to stick, because of the clear connection between organic and health. 

Putting It All Together

From small farmers to large producers, organic food production to meet the rising demand presents significant opportunities for growth, and has companies of all sizes adopting organic product lines. 

Demand increases because organic delivers what it promises: healthy food that is better for people and the planet. With increasing global concerns, purchasing organic is a small act consumers can do for themselves and the environment. Organic food benefits everyone involved: businesses, the planet, and the end consumer. 


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