Organic Trends

Consumers' buying concerns turn outward

Published in CSP Daily News

CHICAGO -- To the left, freshly grilled shrimp marinated in a new-to-market Thai peanut sauce. At the booth next store are straws filled with dissolvable candies to be used in milk. Nearby, point-of-sale equipment companies display their latest and greatest technologies. It must be the FMI Show, one of the few places where exotic food samples mix with myriad new products.

The three-day trade show, which ends today, kicked off Sunday in Chicago with a strong collection of new products and educational workshops that revealed trends driving both the [image-nocss] foodservice and consumer-product-goods industries, perhaps most evidently consumers' desire for organic products.

Organics are very much top of mind with consumers, said Kat Fay, senior editor/consumer analyst of the Reports Group at consumer data researchers Mintel International, Chicago. People want better-for-you [products]. They want these healthy claims.

Fay spoke during a workshop session titled The Future of Snacks: Better for You Segues Into Better for Everyone.

During her talk, Fay said this organics trend, which was very much led by a desire to improve ones own health, is beginning to turn into an interest in free-trade products and green living, both of which are driven by more selfless goals, such as improving the environment and the economies of smaller nations overseas.

We're at the point where consumers don't take a receipt [when they purchase gasoline] at the pump to save paper and keep another tree from being cut down, she said. People believe that when you add it all up, it can make a difference.

Fay said recent research shows that 62% of respondents feel that eating organic products is better for their health. Additionally, 58% believe those products are also better for the environment, making the move to free trade and green that much more understandable.

These trends were evident on the show floor, as well, particularly in the All Things Organic pavilion, where organic and free-trade products ranged from chips and soy products to beer, wine and ice cream.

Thus it was appropriate that the Organic Trade Association released its annual Manufacturer Survey this week, showing that U.S. organic food sales totaled nearly $17 billion in 2006, representing approximately 3% of all retail sales of food and beverages.

Organic foods' share of total food sales is up from 1.9% in 2003 and approximately 2.5% in 2005, the association stated in a press release. According to survey results, sales of organic foods grew by 22.1% in 2006 to reach $16.9 billion. Sales in 2005 were $13.8 billion.

For more coverage of the FMI Show, watch for the June issue of CSP magazine.