Demand for organic foods has increased by almost 17 percent over the past year, according to a new report that reveals how Americans are increasingly turning to organic alternatives in an effort to improve their diet.
The latest survey commissioned by leading organic supermarket Whole Foods Market reveals that nearly two thirds of the nation's consumers have opted for organic goods in 2005, compared to just over half in both 2003 and 2004.
As with their European counterparts, American consumers opt for organic fruit and vegetables above any other food category, with these products purchased by 73 percent of consumers.
Non-dairy beverages and bread and baked goods come in as the next most popular categories, each purchased by 32 percent of shoppers. Dairy products come in at 25 percent, while 22 percent of consumers opt for organic meat, snack foods and packaged goods such as soup or pasta.
Other popular categories include frozen organic foods, prepared and ready-to-eat meals and baby foods.
According to the Organic Trade Association's 2004 Manufacturers' Survey, the organic foods industry reached $10.8 billion in 2003 and has grown at an average rate of 19.5 percent per year since 1997.
Market researcher Euromonitor predicts that sales of packaged organic foods alone will be worth $8.6 billion at retail by 2009 - up from 5.1 billion in 2003.
Yet despite the strong growth of the market for organic goods, price continues to be a main barrier, with almost three quarters of consumers saying that the higher prices of organic foods are what prevent them from buying more, according to the Whole Foods Market report.
Most of the participants said they opt for organic goods in order to avoid pesticides, for their freshness, for their nutritional benefits and in an effort to avoid genetically modified foods.
A majority of consumers also felt organic products were of better quality, as well as being better for the health and the environment.
"Organic foods continue to move into the mainstream, and more Americans are choosing organic foods as part of a lifestyle aimed at wellness," said Margaret Wittenberg, vice president of communications at Whole Foods Market.
According to the survey, 40 percent of people who purchase organic foods notice the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) green organic logo and clear organic labeling on the foods and beverages they buy.