Millennials pushing organic to new heights

by Monica Watrous
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Millennial mom with child shopping for organic food
More than half of organic shoppers are millennials with children.

BALTIMORE — More than half of organic shoppers are millennials with children, according to a new survey from the Organic Trade Association. Parents ages 18 to 34 years old represent the largest group of organic consumers in the United States. Among American mothers and fathers, 52% of those buying organic are millennials, which compares with 35% of Generation X parents and 14% of Baby Boomer parents.

Laura Batcha, chief executive officer and executive director of the Washington-based Organic Trade Association (O.T.A.), discussed the survey findings at Natural Products Expo East, held Sept. 21-24 in Baltimore.

“The market is diversifying,” Ms. Batcha said. “The younger folks are adopting it quickly, but for many of these millennials, I like to think of them as second generation. Many of them were raised on organic products. It’s not a new idea they’re embracing; it’s just something that’s incorporated into their way of thinking.”

USDA Organic certified label
Millennial consumers are more likely to view the organic label as trustworthy, credible, reliable and relevant.

More than 75 million strong in the United States, millennial consumers are more likely to view the organic label as trustworthy, credible, reliable and relevant, Ms. Batcha said.

“That is a reflection of many of these folks being second-generation organic and having a well-rounded, sophisticated understanding about what it means,” she said, adding that millennials are more likely to recognize the broader benefits of organic production on the environment, farmer livelihoods and animal welfare.

Since 2009, the O.T.A. has partnered with KIWI Magazine to conduct surveys and analyze the organic buying patterns of U.S. households. In a survey of more than 1,800 households throughout the country with at least one child under 18, 82% of families said they buy organic sometimes, and the number of families who never buy organic has steadily decreased to 18% from 30% seven years ago. Additionally, nearly half of all households surveyed are buying more organic foods today than a year ago.

Woman buying organic salad
The number of families who never buy organic has steadily decreased to 18% from 30% seven years ago.

Organic food sales in the United States last year hit a new high, reaching $39.7 billion, up 11% from the year-ago level and outpacing the overall food industry’s growth rate of 3%, according to the O.T.A. Nearly 5% of all food sold in the United States in 2015 was organic.

Ms. Batcha described a “virtuous cycle” driving the growth in organic foods.

“One thing we do know is shoppers of organic have some habits that make them very attractive to retailers,” she said. “That means retailers are stocking products, which means products are more available to more people in more locations, which increases accessibility.

“But the reasons why those shoppers are coveted amongst retailers is because they typically shop more often, more trips in a week, higher basket sizes, than non-organic buyers.” 
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