5 Things You Need to Know About Organic Consumers in the Pandemic

Jun 24, 2020

A new survey by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) shows that consumers value organic more than ever in the current pandemic and associate it with attributes that resonate strongly in a period of health and environmental anxiety.

To help organic businesses understand how demand for their products may evolve in the near term, the US trade group conducted an online consumer poll of 3,188 “likely organic” shoppers from Tuesday, April 28, to Wednesday, May 6, 2020.

Five key findings emerged:

1. Organic is now more important than ever
More than 90% of respondents indicated that, in their current food shopping, organic is more important than ever. The commitment to organic has always been at the intersection of health and safety, and that connection resounds even more these days.

2. Many organic shoppers and consumers are prioritising produce, dairy and meats in their purchases
With less time spent in the grocery store, and less selection on the shelves, an overwhelming majority of shoppers said they prioritise organic when purchasing produce (93%). Still, animal-based foods were top of mind for many, with 46% of those responding indicating choosing organic dairy was important, and 39%  expressing a preference for organic meat.

3. Willing to walk on the wild (organic) side
Moving out of the initial basics buying phase, within their organic purchases, 82% of shoppers said they are open to experimenting with new products or brands – good news for organic entrepreneurs and existing brands alike. And it makes sense; with most restaurants, sporting events and other public spaces shuttered, trying a new product is one way to add some variety to the days.

4. It’s a complicated time (to shop for groceries).
The poll asked organic consumers to give one word that described their priority for food shopping at this time. In addition to organic, they also cited health and safety, anxiety and availability. They talked about food delivery, but also mentioned their favourite stores. They reported wearing masks and being hopeful. In short, they painted a pretty good picture of what it’s like to shop for groceries in this moment.

5. Current changes will have lasting impact
When asked how they anticipate their organic shopping habits to evolve over the coming 3-6 months, 56% of shoppers indicated that the changes they have experienced (including home cooking, and simplified ways of eating) will become lasting habits. As organic consumers continue to prioritise health and wellness and proactive self-care through the pandemic, continued growth in organic is likely – not just around the perimeter of the store, but within also within grocery, supplements, and pet care.

OTA asked ‘What is the one word that best describes your priority for food shopping during this time?’

More to come
The online consumer poll is part of a multi-pronged effort by the Organic Trade Association to look not only at shifting patterns in organic shopping since the COVID-19 crisis began, but to gather intelligence on the overall retail landscape for organic, and on the organic supply chain, and where the supply chain is holding together and where it’s being challenged. The assoiciation is working with Mercaris Data Service, Category Partners strategic insights company, and SPINS data technology company to put together the latest insights and outlooks for the organic sector.

The COVID-19 related data, along with the Organic Trade Association’s 2020 Organic Industry Survey, which will look at organic retail sales in the US in 2019, will be released in June.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

About the author: Jim Manson

Jim Manson is editor-in-chief of Diversified Communications UK‘s natural and organic publishing portfolio. He’s written widely on environment and development issues for specialist magazines and national media, including the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Times, and World Bank Urban Age.

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