Microsession: Understanding Consumers of Organic

BY CHRISTOPHER BURT, Produce Business

Associate Professor Jenny Carleo, Rutgers University

Associate Professor Jenny Carleo, Rutgers University

Who is behind the rising organic produce consumption in the United States? The answers may or may not be surprising, but they could provide farmers and retailers an opportunity on how to meet demand and do it efficiently.

Associate professor Jenny Carleo and her research team at Rutgers University conducted a survey of organic consumers in the mid-Atlantic region and shared some of their makeup and buying habits.

Among the findings of the study of 1,100 participants who were the primary organic food shoppers in their household:

  • 57 percent were suburbanites, and 25 percent were urban. They averaged 48 years old; 75.5 percent were females, 82.6 percent were Caucasian.
  • The biggest group of purchasers in the survey made between $100,000 and $250,000. Those who made less than $20,000 purchased almost no organics.

Organic products account for more than 5 percent of total food sales and more than $43 billion. Although three-quarters of all grocery stores offer organics, those in the survey showed little loyalty; some were going to six or more stores to do their shopping. But they were extremely loyal when purchasing online.

Most consumers purchase organic fruits and vegetables at least three to four times per month. What would get them to buy more? Lower prices (60 percent), more variety (49 percent) and more consistency (31 percent). Labeling does resonate. Phrases that most influenced their decision to buy organics were “certified organic”, pesticide-free and locally grown.

“Today’s consumer is looking for authenticity and authentic experiences,” Carleo said. “Locally grown offers them that.”