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Understanding the Buying Motivations of the Organic Consumer

Understanding the Buying Motivations of the Organic Consumer

Ten years ago it may have seemed that things like organic food or farm to table were just passing fads, but in today’s economy that claim is anything but the truth. Between 2002 and 2011 domestic organic produce production increased about 240%. According to a report from, by 2012 organic sales topped $81.3 billion — a figure that is expected to increase 14% by 2018.

This boom in organic sales is indicative of a larger trend towards a consumer preference for healthy, environmentally conscious consumption preferences. And businesses have been quick to accommodate. From Whole Foods stores nationwide, to Target’s Made to Matter Collection it’s clear that organic food consumers matter to businesses, because it matters to consumers. In this post we’ll look at some of the reasons why consumers buy organic food, so that you can better understand the motivations of the organic consumer.

So why do consumers prefer organic?

 They Want the Best for Their Family

Parents want to do what’s best for their children, and buying organic is a great way for the whole family to eat healthier. It’s tough being a mom or a dad today — schools are underfunded, kids get distracted by video games and the internet, and exercise for children is at an all time low. Plus, many parents and household decision makers have concerns about the long-term effects things like GMOs and artificial dyes could have on their family’s health.

Buying organic assuages these fears, and makes them feel like a better parent. The fact that many organic products are now easily accessible, and more affordable than ever before, makes it easier for shoppers to make this commitment to their family, and not feel guilty because they didn’t.

Health Conscious is Not a Trend

Many consumers buy organic food for the health benefits it offers. While organic produce appears to offer comparable nutritional benefits to conventional crops, they utilize more environmentally friendly farming methods, meaning organic consumers are at less of a risk of eating foods contaminated with pesticide residue. Additionally, new research has found that organic produce contains significantly more antioxidants than conventional.

When it comes to meat, eggs, and dairy, a significant motivation to buy organic is to avoid the risks associated with factory farming — which has been known to be responsible for the spread of diseases like E. Coli and Salmonella.

Truly health conscious consumers are knowledgeable, and they do their research. They are on top of the latest news and trends, and they genuinely seek the healthiest options for themselves and their families. They see through inauthentic marketing and they read the fine print.

Socially Conscious, Environmentally Friendly, Animal Friendly

The social and environmental impact of consumption is of the utmost importance for some organic consumers. They oppose the environmental damage done from pesticide runoff into rivers, and they find the conditions under which factory farms operate appalling for workers and animals alike.

Organic produce offers an environmentally friendly alternative, for those who care about the earth and don’t want to see it destroyed. Buying organic makes these consumers feel that they are doing they’re social and moral duty to preserve the environment for the next generation.

Just like the health conscious, they are oftentimes very educated and see through brands that are trying to jump on the bandwagon without the systems, products, and production to back it up.

It’s Cool!

But wait . . . you don’t buy organic? For many, green is the new black. It’s cool — and in many circles even expected — to buy organic, and no one likes to feel left out. Free range, cage free, organic, non-GMO, no artificial flavors, no animal testing, and the list goes on, is trendy. And trendy sells.

This does not mean that consumers who are keeping up with the Jones’ don’t also fall into other conscious and educated categories above, it just means that marketers need to understand there are multiple factors that play into these buying decisions.

It’s Much More Accessible Than Ever Before

In 1980, there was just one Whole Foods. Far fewer people cared about organic, if they had even heard of it. Today, not only does Whole Foods have 340 stores nationwide, but even companies like Walmart and Target are getting in on the organic action. Farmers markets and locally made and sourced products are more popular than ever before.

While buying organic is more accessible than it was even 3 or 5 years ago, and prices have certainly gone down, it is still a financial investment. It costs more to create organic products, and this is passed down to the consumer in most cases. However, this is not stopping organic shoppers by any means. They don’t have to drive to a local farm for the freshest, cleanest produce anymore. They can stroll down the street to their local grocery store now.

What this means for marketers is that while organic is highly coveted amongst a large group of consumers, there are more competitors than ever before. Consumers expect accessibility and are now able to price compare like they weren’t able to do before in this industry.


Figuring out what motivates your unique customers, which is likely a mix of more than one of these key groups, is key in creating a marketing campaign and messaging that resonates. Remember: organic shoppers are influenced by outside sources including bloggers, the media, and their friends and they are much more likely to do the research and read the fine print than most consumer groups. Pairing this information with what you know about your target audience will help you make wiser marketing decisions that drives sales.