Americans are buying more organic products than ever before, according to a new survey released Wednesday by the Organic Trade Association, the leading organic industry trade group.
The survey results show that people choose to buy organic products for a variety of reasons, though these choices are often linked to health and environment.
“Polling shows the No. 1 reason people go organic is to avoid pesticides, chemicals and all of those things that are not allowed in organics,” Katherine Paul, associate director of the Organic Consumers Association, told the Star Tribune. “So I think you are looking at a better-educated population that is connecting the dots between what they eat and their health.”
Sales of organic products reached $47 billion in 2016, up 8 percent from 2015; $43 billion of these sales were organic food sales, a sector that grew 8.4 percent last year and now makes up more than 5 percent of total food sales in the United States. The sector has more than doubled since 2007, when organic food sales had not yet reached $20 billion.
While demand for organic products continues to grow, supply is currently lagging. Organic grain-based food producers, for example, are scrambling to keep up with consumer demand, which Nielsen reports, approached $1 billion in 2016.
In order to meet this growing demand, the industry needs more organic farmers, according to Laura Batcha, CEO of the Organic Trade Association.
“There is unmet demand for organic in this country, and this provides a great opportunity for America’s farmers,” she told the Star Tribune.
Research completed last July showed that while the demand for organic food is there, the cost of organic certification is a deterrent for new organic farmers. This has led companies such as General Mills to pledge to pay higher than market value for organic milk while farmers transition to full organic certification, as well as to the development of certified transitional labels, such as the one created by the Organic Trade Association and the USDA, which was announced in January.
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