Living Green Becomes Mainstream

Over the last five years, organic departments start popping up in mass market grocery stores. This is a sign that organic food has gone mainstream. This is not a surprise. With the recurring coverage of the negative impacts of pesticides, antibiotics and hormones used in the food industry have on health and the environment, plus the scare resulted from a few large food recalls, the public is ready to switch to a healthier alternative. U.S. sales of organic food products reached $22.9 billion in 20081.

How well can this market withstand economic pressure? Looking at the historical trend of the past 10 years. Regardless of the economic condition, organic food products were able to consistently increase its market share. Its share of the total food product sales has increased from below 1% in 1998 to about 3.5% in 20081. The availability of organic food in conventional stores has helped to build this trend by attracting many new supporters. 31% of the families are buying more organic foods compared to a year ago, with many parents preferring to reduce their spending in other areas before cutting organic product spending2. The organic food industry has built a significant presence in our economy.

How about non-food products? This segment includes items such as supplements, fibers and clothings, and personal care products. The stage is ripe for this segment to go "green" as well. The trend has been propelled by the availability of trendy products of late. Nowadays, one can be socially responsible and health conscientious while being stylish. Many designers and big name stores, from mass retailers, like Target and Wal-Mart, to specialty shops, like H&M and Nike, carry products with more environmentally-friendly materials. Many celebrities are throwing their support for these causes as well. While the non-food segment is less than 7% of the overall organic market in 2008, it has experienced significant growth in recent years (over 25% per year)1).

This is a very encouraging sign. The growth of this segment of the market also helps to bring social and environmental awareness to the mass media. In non-food products, consumers are not only looking for a healthier alternative, but positive social and environmental impacts. They examine the whole production process, including how the materials come into existence, the harvesting process, the energy requirements to convert raw materials into final products, the treatment of the labor involved in production, and waste management. Consumers have been vocal about these issues. Remember how the negative publicity resulted from the sweat shop stories had impacted Nike's image. This consumer activism brings the social and environmental issues "mainstream" and as a result helps to fuel the growth of good corporate citizenship and create support for the fair trade movements.

Consumers are incorporating more organic products into their daily lives (3). Nearly 73% of U.S. families buy organic products at least occasionally, mainly for health reasons(2). We should be particularly proud that the Pacific Northwest is a leader in this area. According to a recent research by Mambo Sprouts Marketing released in 2008, consumers in Washington and Oregon see buying green as a priority. 92% reported buying the same or more environmentally friendly products compared to six months ago despite tough economic conditions.

Support the movement. Make your next purchase "green". You can find out more about the organic trend by visiting the Organic Trade Association website at www.ota.com.

1. Organic Trade Association 2009 Organic Industry Survey 2. Organic Trade Association 2009 Families' Organic Attitudes & Belief Study 3. Natural Marketing Institute Organic Consumer Trends Report

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