Not only that – the organic shopper realm is broadening. In 2014, not only did sales of organic food and clothing climb considerably, but the demographics of the retail organic market changed dramatically along with it. Once largely white with upper middle class incomes, the study done by the Organic Trade Association on 2014 market sales of organic goods revealed that this group of consumers now takes a strong foot hold beyond the ‘power shoppers. It includes a surprising number of Hispanics and African-Americans.
“Our survey shows that organic has turned a corner. Organic hasn’t been a niche for some time, and today it is the face of America. The demographics of the organic consumer are not any different than the demographics of America.” – Laura Batcha, Executive Director & CEO – Organic Trade Association
What does she mean? The percentages that make up the different cultures in the United States are the same as current organic buyers. It’s not a specialty niche anymore. Organic is now mainstream, even though a healthy part of pesticide-free produce, dairy, eggs, and fresh meats is sold consumer-direct through farmer’s markets and CSA subscriptions. The OTA’s numbers reflect retail organic buyers are:
- 73% white
- 16% Hispanic
- 14% African American
Mirroring the most recent census demographics: the US population is 72.4% white, 16.4% Hispanic, and 12.6% African American.
But this is more than a survey to see what’s selling. The U.S. Families’ Organic Attitudes and Beliefs 2015 Tracking Study gathered information from over 1200 respondent households in connection with Kiwi Magazine. Respondents all had at least one child younger than 18 living at home. The OTA also looks at the education, income level, and the age of organic buyers, as well as comparing new organic shopper buying habits to those that are long-time consumers of pesticide-free products.
While the market for organic consumer goods has been steadily growing since its inception 30 years ago, the increase over the past few years jumped substantially and the ‘face’ of the average buyer changed along with it:
“Today, seven in ten families who purchase organic describe themselves as “white,” after hovering consistently around eight in ten from the survey’s first year in 2009 through 2013. In contrast, African American and Hispanic families have been steadily increasing among the ranks of organic-buying households. The percentage of African American families buying organic on a regular basis has doubled from just 7 percent six years ago, to now 14 percent. Hispanic households choosing organic is even higher at 16 percent, a huge jump from 7 percent just four years ago, when the survey started tracking Hispanic buying patterns.”
Naturally, there are no ‘official’ tallies on how much fresh food exchanges hands at local farmers markets, and through farm CSA box schemes – so the numbers are likely off, but do give us a little insight into changes taking place. The USDA reports that data given by the OTA’s study shows that 93% of organic goods are purchased at traditional grocery stores and big box stores. They ESTIMATE the remaining 7% of organic food sales in the US take place at farm markets, restaurants, and ‘marketing channels other than retail stores.’
What really stands out is the independent nature of organic growers and organic consumers. Cornell University estimates direct sales of fresh produce at a low 1.6% of national totals, which is surprising given that there are well over 8100 farmers markets in existence, and no farm-direct CSA programs are accounted for. Perhaps they know better than to deviate from the group that supplies their daily bread.
Great news, but its sad to know that so many haven’t figured out that old food isn’t as great tasting, or good for you as farm fresh. Convenience still wins over common sense. It must, because fresh isn’t picked weeks ago green, and force ripened after traveling from hither and yon. Even organic fruits and veggies are well-traveled in mainstream grocery stores.