Is the 'organic' label claim losing momentum with consumers?

The organic claim is common on food & beverage labels. In America, ‘USDA Organic’ is one of the most recognised front-of-pack labels and around 20% of consumers claim to buy organic food & beverage products, according to research from the International Food Information Council (IFIC). Yet few consumers know what 'organic' means.

Recent research from the US Organic Trade Association, which surveyed 2,500 US consumers, found that many people said they cared about several elements that the USDA Organic label has standards for, such as usage of chemicals and animal welfare. 

But organic is a less compelling message than several others. The survey found that 60% of consumers find the “all natural” claim – which doesn’t actually have a formal definition – influential in purchasing decisions, compared to 54% for the USDA organic claim.

It might seem that the answer is for more and better official communication about the organic claim and what it stands for.  But the organic message has been promoted by trade bodies - and by a generally supportive media - for 25 years, with limited results.

Any further official promotion for organic may be a waste of time. Today’s consumers have access to information from a wide array of sources. The credibility of experts has suffered in recent years and people have less trust in what official bodies say. The research from the Organic Trade Association confirms this: only 11% of those surveyed said they turn to official agencies for information. Meanwhile, 24% said they get their information mainly from friends and 17% from social media. 

In a world which bombards people with information and messages, 'organic' will have to figure out how to make itself more compelling to consumers.

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