Healthful eating has been on the uptick in the U.S., lately, and it isn’t just hot topics like the presence and labeling of GMO’s in food that are getting consumer attention. The change in habits is pervasive throughout the country, across income levels, and in every generation. The reason? The consumer value equation has changed, and products like organic foods are leading the way. That’s why today’s post will focus on seven reasons customers are making the switch to organic products.
What It Means to Be Organic
At its most simple, organic foods are those that are all natural and are specifically maintained, handled, and treated. However, the term organic is much more specific than simply stating that it’s all natural. Organic farms eschew GMO’s, ionizing radiation, the use of pesticides or synthetic or sewage sludge fertilizer on plants, or the use of antibiotics or growth hormones in livestock and poultry. It also emphasizes the use of renewable resources and sustainability efforts, as well as soil and water conservation.
Because the term “organic” is federally regulated for commercial use, if your company wants to market itself that way, you’ll need it to be certified by the USDA. That means you’ll need to meet the specific regulatory standards we touched on above, but you’ll need to coordinate with an agent from the USDA National Organic Program to navigate approval, and certification will need to be renewed every year. While certain specifics — e.g., the cost of certification — will vary based on the size and nature of your company, here are the basic steps required in the certification process:
- Your company adopts the specified organic practices, then submits application/fees to the appropriate certifying agent.
- The agent reviews and verifies compliance with USDA organic regulations.
- There’s an on-site inspection to double check your operation or product is compliant.
- The certifying agent makes a final review, including the inspection report, and assuming all requirements are met, issues the certification.
Once certified, you can utilize one of three labeling options on your products as meets your needs: 100% Organic, Organic (i.e., 95% organic ingredients), and Made With Organic Ingredients (i.e., 70% organic ingredients, with the final 30% also strictly restricted, for example, non-GMO). The USDA organic logo can also be applied to your packaging.
The Reasons People Switch
As consumers learn more and do more of their own research, these are just a few of the reasons consumers are making the switch to organic products and make a great launching point for understanding your customers changing behaviors.
1. Organic Is Better for the Environment
Because organic production is as much a method of farming as it is the resulting food, it ends up working more harmoniously with nature than modern farming does. For instance, organic farmers go out of their way to prevent soil erosion through conservation and restoration. They balance the needs of wildlife with their farming needs, and manage wetlands and animal preserves as a part of that process. It avoids using pesticides and sewage, which in turn protects groundwater from contamination and minimizes pollution.
2. Organic Is Better for Animals
There’s a number of other livestock and poultry care factors that are present in organic farming, such as the prevalence of cage-free and grass-fed animals. Because organic farming doesn’t rely on mass-production, it also means animals are better cared for in environments that are more natural to their own needs, and they live naturally healthy lives without the problematic force feedings or excessive application of drugs.
3. Organic Is Better for Your Health
Protecting groundwater not only prevents pollution, it also protects drinking water. What’s more, organic foods are free of chemical ingredients that can cause bodily damage. Some initial studies may show that organic foods are also higher in nutrients, giving your body access to what it needs to function in the way that it receives it best.
4. Organic Helps Parents Take Better Care of Their Kids
Without the use of synthetic pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics, children’s bodies are able to develop naturally without untoward interference that may harm their immune systems. The extra nutrients also promote better health and development.
5. Buying Organic Foods Helps to Support Small and Local Farmers
Unlike the farming industry, organic food production tends to support smaller farming businesses (that is to say, single family farms). This is especially true in areas that feature a large number of locavores, who go out of their way to find fresh, sustainable foods near where they live or have a restaurant.
6. Organic Food Production Is Safer for Agricultural Workers
Because of its strict requirements, organic food production avoids many of the dangers that normally plague agricultural workers, such as exposure to dangerous toxins. Furthermore, because organic farms are smaller, they tend to not employ some of the mistreatment prevalent in larger farming operations, and because they are constantly in a certification process, the likelihood of serious abuses is also low.
7. Organic Food Tastes Better. (At Least, Many Think So!)
To be fair, taste is pretty subjective. Even so, the growing ranks of organics shoppers profess this particular preference as often as they can. The fact that more restaurateurs and chefs are also electing to go organic for similar reasons speaks to the validity of this perspective as well.
How Brands Attract These Shoppers
Probably the biggest thing about marketing to non-organic customers in the process of going organic is to be approachable. Even back in 2000, when the organic craze was only just building speed, the brands that avoided taking themselves too seriously or over-educating customers (who sometimes didn’t need it) were the ones that took lighthearted humor to heart (e.g., Yeo Valley Organic). Given these reasons for growth in the organic market, tapping into the psychological underpinnings in your message is also smart — Whole Foods tends to tap into fulfillment in ads while brands like Coleman Natural tap into a parent’s need to nurture through packaging. Even the USDA logo itself (like many organic brand logos) taps into these psychological underpinnings with its use of earthy colors and clean, basic lines that evoke thoughts of farms.
Given the growing popularity of organic foods, it’s also going to be imperative to differentiate your brand and get noticed above the noise. For example, Green & Black focused its positioning around ethics, while Organic Valley positions itself on sustainability and supporting family farms. Even huge chains, like Target, have shifted their positioning to support customers’ wellness goals, promoting simpler ingredients and cleaner diet options with easy to read and understand labels.
You should also bear in mind that going organic in and of itself may not be enough, especially among Millennials. Biodynamic may be the next organic buzzword, encompassing not only how the food is farmed and packaged, but also the farm’s complete sustainability and other ethical concerns, including the end of agricultural human trafficking. Do your market research to have a complete view of what your customers care about; these insights are going to be how you not only attract their attention, but keep their loyalty.
Now that you have a picture about some consumer reasons to eat organic, it’s time to take a look at how you offer your products and what you can take advantage of with your marketing campaigns and positioning. Don’t let this organic opportunity pass your company by while there’s still time to take advantage of it. Healthful eating isn’t just a phase, and you might just end up losing customers if your brand isn’t on board.