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Consumers are Not Making the Connection that Organic Prohibits the Ingredients That They are Seeking to Avoid

One would think that with society’s growing emphasis on health and wellness, organic would be a key claim for which consumers are searching.

But, sadly, it isn’t.

This unfortunate reality was confirmed by the incredibly detailed and exhaustive 2018 U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends report from the Food Marketing Institute and the Hartman Group.

Below are three sets of data points which should cause all of us in organic to take serious notice.

When purchasing food, product claims that shoppers are seeking:

No artificial ingredients: 33%
No preservatives: 33%
No trans fats: 28%
Natural: 26%
Not bioengineered: 22%
Certified organic: 14%
Gluten-free: 7%

Types of Products Sought (Avoided):

Locally-Grown: 55%
Functional: 54%
All-Natural: 52%
Organic 38%
Bioengineered: 42% (avoided)

Most Important Attributes in a Primary Grocery Store:

High-quality fruits and vegetables: 80%
Great product selection and variety: 77%
Low prices: 77%
Items on sale or money-saving specials: 63%
Convenient from home: 60%
Fast checkout: 50%
Locally-grown products: 36%
Good selection of all natural/organic products: 28%

In order to analyze and interpret this data, it is important to understand a few of the report’s other findings:

* Millennials with children, in particular, manage their busy lives with high use of smartphone apps (to look up coupons, sales, recipes or product reviews or to find items in-store), QR codes and communications tools such as newsletters, texts and social media. For example, 56% of Millennials with children use at least one grocery-related app.

* Shoppers evaluate a food retailer by how well it supports their overarching goal of eating well.

* Consumers are looking for transparency on two fronts: honesty from manufacturers about product attributes, quality and social and environmental impact; and information from the retailer around product selection.

* Digital tools are increasingly influencing in-store rituals, including:
– Digital list making
– Websites and apps for passive/active discovery and information
– Smartphone use in-aisle


1) The fact that ‘natural’ and ‘locally-grown’ are consistently being viewed as more important by shoppers than ‘organic’ can likely be attributed to one of two factors.

First, consumers do not value or trust the organic seal.

Second, shoppers do not fully understand that organic prohibits the use of toxic chemicals, risky GMOs and artificial ingredients. Yet, ironically, shoppers are seeking out non-organic products that are free from these things.

The effects of the organic industry — a $50 billion dollar industry — still not having a national branding/advertising campaign continues to haunt us, in terms of lost sales and a lack of understanding among consumers about what organic means.

2) Given shoppers’ lack of understanding about organic and their growing reliance on digital tools, organic brands can leverage this to build trust with their customer base.


Email marketing.

Very few organic brands use email effectively, and almost always, it is the company pushing new products or special promotions. While these are critical functions of email marketing, organic companies can build trust, strengthen brand loyalty and deepen relationships by providing important content about health, wellness and organic food.

According to the 2018 U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends report, shoppers are heavily relying on their primary grocery store to support them in the quest to eat well and shop well, and email marketing could help organic brands become a trusted source for this information.

From an organic food perspective, the report’s findings should make us very concerned, and the industry needs to come together in an unprecedented way to pressure the USDA about stricter enforcement and tightening of the rules. The credibility of the organic seal is at stake, and as this report indicates, consumers may already be having doubt about it.

Have a great day!

Max Goldberg, Founder

This Week's News Items

Weekly News Summaries

First Course

Once Upon a Farm Closes $20M Round

By Gerald Porter Jr.

The organic HPP baby food powerhouse, co-founded by John Foraker, Jennifer Garner, Cassandra Curtis and Ari Raz, has just closed on a $20M round, led by CAVU Venture Partners.

Sustainable Pulse

Exclusive: Inventor of the GMO Potato Reveals the Dirty Truth

In a wide-ranging and revealing interview, Caius Rommens, a former director of J.R. Simplot and team leader at Monsanto, reveals the hidden dangers of the GMO potato that he created.

Organic Trade Association

District Court to Hear Organic Animal Welfare Case Against the USDA

By Maggie McNeil

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has agreed to hear the Organic Trade Association's case against the USDA over the agency’s failure to put into effect new organic livestock standards.

Second Course

Unproven Gene-Edited Foods are Coming.....But are Not Being Regulated

By Lydia Mulvany

Incredibly risky and novel gene-edited foods will be coming to dinner plates soon, but they have escaped important regulation because of a legal loophole.

The Orange County Register

Language in the Farm Bill Could Override Local Pesticide Regulation

By Alicia Robinson

Language tucked away in the farm bill could block local governments from making their own rules about pesticides, reversing the bans that have been achieved across the country.

New Hope Network

The Savory Institute Launches its New Regenerative Seal

By Bill Giebler

The Savory Institute’s Land to Market program has debuted its Ecological Outcome Verification seal, with four brands participating in the pilot program.

Third Course
Mother Jones

Could Reishi Mushrooms Reverse Colony Collapse Disorder?

By Jackie Flynn Mogensen

Very promising new research is showing that reishi mushrooms could reverse the severe decline in the bee population.

Feed Navigator

Organic Feed Remains a Major Challenge for the Industry

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

Sourcing legitimate organic corn and soy is one of the real challenges for organic animal operators.


Brandless to Open a Pop-Up in NYC

By Jordan Crook

Encouraged by the success from its pop-up in Los Angeles, Brandless will be opening up a pop-up in NYC's Meatpacking District from October 24th to November 4th

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This Week's Quick Hits

Quick Hits

* Dr. Bronner’s and Organic Valley have opened up Lighthouse Free Kitchen, a North Carolina grassroots disaster relief effort which provides free meals and other basic services to those who are in need as a result of Hurricane Florence.

* Dreaming of a Vetter World, Bonnie Hawthorne’s excellent documentary about the pioneering organic farmer David Vetter, will be playing this week at the Woodstock Film Festival in New York. The trailer for the movie can be seen HERE.

* Amy’s Drive Thru will be opening up next July in San Francisco International Airport.

* Jason Karp, co-founder of Hu Products and a major shareholder in SunOpta, will be closing his multibillion-dollar hedge fund and will focus his efforts on the food, health and wellness space.

* PCC Community Markets, Seattle’s community-owned food market, has donated $1 million to PCC Farmland Trust, an organization that helps to protect Puget Sound farmland.

* Governor Jerry Brown has signed a law that prohibits the sale of CBD cocktails and beverages in California.

* Leading fair trade advocacy group, Fair World Project, has published the 17th issue of For A Better World magazine, and it features an interview with Dolores Huerta, civil rights icon and co-founder of the United Farm Workers.

* Ex-CEO of Juicero, Jeff Dunn, is rumored to be making a play for the troubled Fresh division of Campbell Soup, with a reported price tag of $500-700M.

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