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Non-GMO or Organic? What Your Shoppers Need to Know (and How to Educate Them)

Non-GMO or Organic? What Your Shoppers Need to Know (and How to Educate Them)

Most shoppers find food labels confusing, and with good reason. There are so many terms that describe food as organic, natural, non-GMO, and more that are not clear cut or easy to understand. Add to that the government regulations that are often murky at best and it stands to reason that your shoppers would be unclear on just what they are buying.

A good example of this is the misinformation surrounding non-GMO and organic. Many shoppers believe that non-GMO products are healthier than organic. They aren’t, as organic is automatically non-GMO by definition. However, the confusion typically results in distrust of organic products, leaving those items overlooked and underappreciated.

The most effective way to combat this is to educate shoppers through multiple channels, both in-store and online. Once they have a better understanding of organic products, shoppers will be drawn to them and you can boost your sales in that category.

The Growth of Natural and Organic Products

Organic products have led a steady upward trend in sales over the past few years. 2017 was a record-breaking year for organic sales in the United States, hitting $49.4 billion. This was up 6.4% from 2016, translating to almost $3.5 billion in new sales. It isn’t expected to slow anytime soon either. The Organic Food & Beverages Market has projected the combined annual growth rate of organic products to stay a steady 14.8% annually from 2018 through 2022.

There has been a substantial change in attitudes toward food in the past few years as the focus has shifted to better health and wellness. Shoppers are becoming more aware of what they are feeding their families and are questioning the source of that food. Around 65% of organic shoppers are considered “mid-level.” This group is comprised of individuals who are making conscious changes in both their attitudes toward food and their buying habits. This results in making more buying choices that are organic products.

Furthermore, an estimated 44% of the American population actively try to include organic foods in their diet, and nearly 40% report that most or some of the food they purchase and eat is labeled organic. The majority of shoppers in this group are between 30 and 49 years of age.

In 2017, 83% of the organic products sold in the U.S. were branded, mostly by well known, popular brands. This indicates that shoppers are looking for names they can trust amid the confusing information that is being circulated.

However, despite the steady upsurge of organic product sales, there’s even more potential for retailers to maximize their organic product sales. This is quickly becoming a highly competitive category, and helping shoppers differentiate between organic and non-GMO can be the key to increased profitability.

Organic vs Non-GMO: What’s the Difference?

Products must meet certain standards set forth by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in order to be considered organic. The official term for true organic products is either “certified organic” or “USDA-certified organic.” Any product that does not have this distinction on its label is not recognized as such. They must also:

  • Bear the seal for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s official “USDA Organic.”
  • Be certified organic.
  • Contain 95% or more organic ingredients.

Certain products must also meet specific requirements as it pertains to the food type. For instance, eggs, poultry, meat, and dairy products can only be labeled organic if they come from animals that are not given any growth hormones or antibiotics. Other organic foods like produce have to be grown without using conventional pesticides, bioengineering, ionizing radiation, or fertilizers that are comprised of sewage sludge or synthetic ingredients.

Non-GMO is food that has not been genetically modified. In fact, GMO means genetically modified organism. GMOs are microorganisms, animals, plants, or other organisms that are created in a lab using scientific techniques like engineering and genetic modification to alter its genetic makeup. Environmental and consumer groups as well as scientists have identified a number of environmental and health risks associated with foods that are GMO or contain GMOs. One major concern is that the processes used to create GMOs produce combinations of animal, plant, virus, and bacterial genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.

Although certified organic foods are considered non-GMO, non-GMO-labeled food is not always organic. Regulations imposed by the USDA prohibits the use of GMOs when farming and manufacturing organic products. Additionally, non-GMO products can still be grown with pesticides and other practices that may be harmful to the environment. Conversely, organic farmers are not allowed to use synthetic pesticides, and they even employ effective strategies to avoid contact with GMOs.

Key Takeaways

Begin educating your shoppers on the difference between non-GMO and organic by utilizing these strategies.

  • A MamboTrack™ survey showed that the majority of shoppers who choose non-GMO foods prefer them to be labeled and certified as non-GMO. Becoming certified through the Non-GMO Project is a good place to start. This is especially beneficial for retailers, as people are willing to pay more for food products with organic and non-GMO labels.
  • Use social media to inform, educate, and engage your shoppers. Start conversations, post infographics, and share videos on organic and non-GMO foods.
  • Support shopper values when marketing organic products. Some may be drawn to the idea of taking better care of their kids, while others may be compelled to buy organic products to help and support local farmers.
  • Sponsor in-store events and workshops designed to help shoppers better understand these and other terms. Give them an opportunity to experience the difference for themselves by tasting, feeling and evaluating organic and non-GMO products.

Most of your shoppers may not know the difference between non-GMO and organic products. All too often, they will pass on organic products in favor of non-GMO because they think those products are healthier. By educating your shoppers so they understand the differences, you are empowering them to make healthier food choices. Use the tips and strategies outlined here to give your shoppers the information they need to be better informed about the foods they’re consuming. Not only will they make healthier food choices, you will boost your organic product sales in the process.