The sudden demand for organic food in supermarkets seems to have appeared overnight, but not all of us are sure what organic food means. Still, because of societal influences, we’re all somehow more inclined to buy organic food, whether we understand it or not. This can be seen in the increase of global organic agriculture expanding in countries all over the world, including India, Uganda, Mexico, the Philippines, and Tanzania.
So, what exactly is organic food, and why is it better than non-organic food? In this article, we’ll dive into all-important organic food statistics to satisfy your curiosity.
Let’s start with some basics.
What Is Organic Food?
Organic food includes foods that are naturally grown and farmed without the use of harmful and artificial substances like hormones, antibiotics, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). To be certified organic, products must be free of these artificial additives, including flavoring, coloring, preservatives, sweeteners, and monosodium glutamate (MSG).
The rise of organic food is partially due to the assumption that it’s more nutritious. A study on the composition of organic and non-organic foods supports this, as scientists found higher concentrations of antioxidants in organic food. These antioxidants include polyphenolics and other compounds that have been linked to a reduced risk of chronic illnesses, including neurodegenerative diseases and certain types of cancer. The same study also discovered that organic crops have lower concentrations of pesticide residues.
Organic Food vs. GMO
The development of genetically modified organisms was a game-changer in the agriculture market, as scientists developed faster and more efficient ways of growing crops. Nevertheless, the term seemed to scare consumers, as it’s not yet fully understood.
Although scientists and the World Health Organization argue that GMOs are safe for consumption, the public is still uncertain. According to a poll, 57% of the general public voted that GM foods are unsafe to eat, whereas 88% of AAAS scientists agree that GM foods are generally safe to eat. 67% of people claim that scientists don’t have a clear understanding of the health effects of GM crops.
Besides the general public consensus that organic food is healthier and safer to consume than non-organic food, organic farming methods are also more efficient. Organic farming means efficient energy use, can be more profitable, fewer greenhouse gas emissions, requires less land and is more adaptable to new regions. What’s more, new job positions are created.
Organic Food Consumption Trends
According to a recent study by Ecovia Intelligence, the worldwide organic food and drink market surpassed the $100 billion mark for the first time in 2018. This was an increase of 6% from 2017, and it looks like this number is only going up from here.
Nevertheless, the major contributors to this growth can be seen mostly in developed markets such as Europe and North America. More specifically, Denmark and Switzerland took the lead in organic food consumption per capita as the average consumer spent around $325 on organic food in 2018. Denmark and Switzerland are closely followed by Sweden, whose consumers spend $255 on average on organic food. After Sweden, the list is followed by Luxembourg ($246), Austria ($230), Norway ($174), etc. The US market is the largest market for organic food and drinks, accounting for 45% of global sales, followed by the German, French, Italian, and Canadian markets.
Organic Food Trends in Rural Areas and Developing Countries
Despite this major growth, the trends can only be observed in developed countries. That said, the number of rural areas and developing countries is slowly rising.
Let’s take India as an example. The organic food movement in India was initially thought to be another passing fad. In contrast, the trend raised awareness about the benefits of organic food, contributing to the growth of organic food production. The Indian market was valued at $360 million in 2014. But since then, great strides have been made in the organic food industry in India. It’s estimated that the Indian organic food market will be worth around $1.36 billion by the end of 2020.
Now, the major reason for this growth is due to the country’s increasing digital literacy rate, which spreads Western trends across borders to developing countries like India. Moreover, in early 2019, India became part of a group of around 50 countries that mandate clear consumer-friendly labeling for organic products. As a result, more people are aware and conscious of the benefits of consuming organic products to their health and the environment.
The US Organic Food Market
Organic food reaches consumers via several channels and can be found mainly in supermarkets, discount stores, and online stores. The US organic food market saw a 5.9% increase in 2018, and organic food sales could hit $60 billion by 2022. In 2018, 5.7% of foods sold were organic. Out of that, 15% of sales came from organic fruits and vegetables.
Millennials and the Organic Movement
There’s no denying the fact that millennials are presently at the forefront of the organic food movement. In fact, they are the biggest consumers in the US due to lifestyle and beliefs that go hand in hand with organic products, such as yoga and overall well-being. According to the 2017 US Families’ Organic Attitudes and Behaviors Study, 25% of millennials are currently parents, with this number expected to rise to 80% in 15 years.
Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association says:
“Millennials are the largest consumer group in the US and they’re choosing organic. As more members of this generation become parents, their presence in the organic market will just get stronger. This year’s survey findings clearly show the positive relationship between organic and parenting.”
This means that organic living is here to stay, as young families continue to raise a new generation of children that will adopt these environment-friendly habits as a regular way of life.
The Future of Organic Food
The organic food market is estimated to reach $375.98 billion by 2025. Even the organic baby food market is looking good, with an estimated annual growth rate of 6.67%, possibly due to the increasing number of millennial parents. In this year alone, it’s expected that 20% of land in Denmark will be used for organic farming, which will have a positive effect on organic food sales.
The online shopping trend is also a contributing factor to the growth of organic food, as it has seen a 10% increase from this channel. Again, we can thank millennials for this growth, as 40% of them prefer to shop online, with 20% stating that it’s due to the quality of products. Generally, 17% of consumers find that online shopping is convenient and easy.
Organic food trends have an optimistic future due to the shifting priorities of consumers who not only care about their health but also the environment. This fact, coupled with the rising middle-class population, means that more people are aware of and can afford the organic food lifestyle. Innovative DNA and microbiome testing kits allow us to find out what our body is lacking to have the best nutrition, and organic food might be the answer to this.
Yes, I’m guilty of spending huge amounts on organic foods. At the end of the day, we all have to eat, and people want to continue eating organic food. Although it might continue to face challenges, the organic food movement has a great future ahead.