The word “organic” has become a household term, and purchasing trends are following suit. In the last year, 88% of U.S. households have purchased organic* food and beverages—a trend that’s growing in strength as consumers increasingly turn to more healthy and clean options in food, beverages and non-food categories like personal care. And retail measurement data validates this shift. In the year ended Sept. 2, 2017, dollar sales of UPC-coded organic products grew 9.8%, and unit volume increased 11.4%.
In the past, organic products were most prevalently available in premier natural and fresh grocery stores. In recent years, however, organics have become more accessible—and popular—than ever, with dollar sales shifting across channel lines. Premier natural and fresh outlets account for 26% of organic spend, but share has started to shift in the last two years. Warehouse/club stores, which gained 0.8 percentage point in the last two years, now represent 27% of all organic spend. But organic products aren’t just making headway in the channels that high-income shoppers are more likely to frequent. In fact, supermarkets, mass merchandisers and discount grocery channels now represent a combined 25% share of organic spend, up 2.0 percentage points from two years ago.
In addition to becoming more accessible across retail channels, organic growth is also spreading across the actual store. Notably, fresh departments are top drivers of success for retailers when it comes to organic offerings, but there are still many other opportunities for growth across center store aisles that carry shelf-stable packaged goods, dairy and frozen foods.
For many, organic has become a state of mind. In fact, 29% of Americans say organic claims influence their purchasing of food and beverage categories. But the importance of organic does vary across specific fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) categories. According to Nielsen’s 2017 Category Shopping Fundamentals study, 40% of consumers said organic is important when shopping for baby food, though that level of importance is less so for other categories like milk (8%), lotion (6%) and ice cream (4%).
For a variety of reasons, including factors related to product supply and labor inputs, organic products often come with a higher price tag. In a recent Nielsen survey, 41% of consumers said financial costs associated with eating healthier foods are a barrier to their personal health. Compared to conventional products, organic eggs cost an average of 122% more than the average retail price for eggs; organic milk is 87% higher; vitamins are 40% higher and baby food is 20% higher.
For some households, especially lower-income households, price can be a significant purchase influencer. However, private-label products can offer the accessibility of organic products at a more affordable price point. When looking at the average price for a selection of organic items, the private-label basket was 18% less expensive than the branded basket. This suggests that private-label offerings could serve as the entry point for organics among consumers with less disposable funds to spend.
As consumers continue to search for clean products to fill their baskets, those labeled “organic” are sure to catch their eye. For retailers looking to boost their organic sales at price points that resonate with the average shopper, investing in private-label organics may open doors to a larger set of consumers on the hunt for healthier foods, regardless of which channel they shop in.
*Organic data in this article includes UPC-coded products only, unless otherwise noted
- Nielsen “Barriers to Health” Survey, December 2016
- Nielsen Answers On Demand Integrated Homescan data ended July 29, 2017
- Nielsen Wellness Track, Total U.S., latest 52 weeks ended July 1, 2017, UPC-coded only