U.S. consumers trail other world markets in organic choices

by Eric Schroeder
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NEW YORK — U.S. consumers came up short in an ACNielsen global survey that covered the purchase of organic alternatives from 11 food and beverage categories.

On the low end, 6% of U.S. consumers said they regularly purchase organic deli meats, which compared with 11% as the global average. On the high end, 15% of U.S. consumers said they regularly purchase organic eggs. Both organic vegetables and organic fruit also came in at 15%. The global numbers were 32% for organic eggs, 29% for organic vegetables and 28% for organic fruit.

In 5 of 10 functional foods categories, however, the percentage of U.S. consumers saying they regularly purchase functional foods was greater than the global average percentage. On the low end, 4% of U.S. consumers said they regularly purchase fermented drinks containing good bacteria, which compared with 16% for the global average. On the high end, 50% of U.S. consumers said they purchased whole grain, high fiber products, which compared with 40% for the global average.

Global consumers gave health as their main reason for buying organic foods and beverages. A secondary opinion was health benefits for the shoppers’ children. In Europe, more people cited environmental benefits as their secondary reason. Price was listed as the main deterrent to buying organic products.

"How mainstream organic products become, to a significant degree, depends on what happens with their prices," said Tom Markert, chief marketing officer for ACNielsen. "But I’m not expecting large price cuts. Even as production increases and the number of categories that include organic offerings expands, marketers may very well opt to maintain organics’ upscale positioning."

In functional foods, U.S. consumers cited doubts about health claims and taste as their main reasons for not buying the products.

"The functional foods distinction is beginning to blur, as manufacturers enhance more and more products with additional health benefits," Mr. Markert said. "As that trend continues, an increasing number of consumers are likely to become functional foods buyers without even realizing it."

The twice-yearly global ACNielsen Online Consumer Opinion Survey polled more than 21,100 regular Internet users in 38 markets across Europe, Asia Pacific, North America, Latin America and South Africa in May. For more details, visit www2.acnielsen.com/press/data.shtml.

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