“Organic” has gone from buzzword to necessity as consumers continue to vote with their wallets for the foods they want most. It comes as no surprise to anyone – from industry experts to casual grocery shoppers – that organic labels have been slowly but surely taking over aisles. But just how much has the organic products industry changed in the past couple decades? The answer may shock you:
Growth in Demand
Younger generations of consumers, particularly the later end of Gen Y and Millennials, increasingly demand organic or natural foods. As these generations begin young families, concerns over pesticides, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and antibiotics in food products are becoming more and more prevalent. And the concerns are not unfounded: A 2013 estimate by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests about 1.1 billion pounds of pesticides are being used annually, which could likely be harmful to consumers and the environment alike.
Moreover, according to Angelia Jagiello, an associate director for the Organic Trade Association, consumer concerns also include environmental issues, demand for clean labels, vegetarian and vegan lifestyles, and the avoidance of allergens, when it comes to purchasing food products. These concerns push many consumers to purchase organic products, which tend to be pesticide-free (and thus safer), more environmentally sustainable, and more transparently labeled.
Growth in Sales
The growing consumer demand for organic products has had an obvious, direct influence on the monetary growth of the organic products industry. The following graphic, courtesy of the Organic Trade Association, illustrates the significant growth of organic food and non-food sales since 2006. Interestingly, it also shows the slight but notable growth of sales within the organic non-food sales sector, showing that consumers are making the decision to buy organic in the grocery store as well as in other areas of their lives.
But this graph fails to illustrate the full impact of the growth of the organic industry: Since 1997, total organic sales in the U.S. has increased by more than 1,200%. Yes, you read that right – it has gone from $3.6 billion in 1997 to $43.3 billion in 2015. Organic vegetable sales alone have increased by 50% year-over-year in mainstream grocery outlets, a shockingly drastic incline.
Growth in Related Industries
The growth of the organic food industry has spilled over into many other, related sectors; for instance, organic non-food products have grown at a nearly corresponding rate. Sales of non-GMO food and drink, for instance, have increased significantly; the industry is expected to grow 65% between 2014 and 2019 alone.
Together, organic and non-GMO foods are targeted to constitute 75% of the natural foods market by 2019; a 15% increase from 2014. Shoppers looking for natural foods are increasingly interested in USDA-Certified Organic and non-GMO products, which is spurring this growth.
This period of rapid expansion in the organics and naturals industry is an exciting time for many hoping to introduce organic, natural, or healthier products, especially in the non-food sector. Organic non-food consumer goods are likely the next sector to boom with the same intense growth seen in the organic food market; but exactly how this will manifest is yet to be seen. One thing is for certain, however: consumers have cast their votes, and “organic” is the word of the future.