Many analysts had predicted that sales of organic products would shrink along with the economy in 2009 but, in the United States at least, the opposite has been the case. Although the organic sector has seen a significant downturn in other parts of the world, including the UK, where sales have dropped sharply, the US market has stayed strong, with supermarket sales of organic and natural products falling by just 0.3 percent.
Mintel’s figures show that only three percent of American shoppers say they have stopped buying organics altogether, while 40 percent say the recession has not altered their spending on organic products.
Senior analyst at Mintel David Browne said: “Heavy users of natural and organic food and drink are most likely to indicate they’ve traded down to less expensive organic options. However, less-frequent consumers of organic products have shown that they haven’t shifted their behavior. This is good news for the organic food and drink market, as this group may begin to buy more once recession-related fears begin to fade.”
Mintel, in conjunction with natural products specialists SPINS, said it expects organic and natural food and drink sales to recover from 2010 to 2012 – but not at pre-recession growth rates.
Trust in organics
Meanwhile, the certification process for organic products appears to have gained in credibility, as 45 percent of those surveyed by Mintel said that they trust the term ‘organic’, compared to 33 percent who said they trust the term ‘natural’.
This stands in contrast to research carried out by advertising firm The Shelton Group in July. Its survey into consumer attitudes towards company claims of environmental sustainability found that 31 percent of respondents said ‘100 percent natural’ is the most desirable eco-friendly product label claim, compared to 14 percent who chose ‘100 percent organic’, despite well-defined certification standards for organics.
The popularity of natural products has boomed, and Mintel says it is now the leading label claim on new products, featuring on 23 percent of products launched globally in 2008.
“The natural and organic food industry has an opportunity to instill trust and educate consumers as we work our way out of this recession,” Browne said.
In this latest survey, Mintel found that 30 percent of respondents did not trust either term.