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AUSTIN, Texas - More than one-quarter of Americans (27 percent) are eating more organic products than just one year ago. Just two years after the U.S., according to the 2004 Whole Foods Market Organic Foods Trend Tracker survey.
With over one year passing since the Department of Agriculture (USDA) implemented the National Organic Standards that mandated clearer labeling of organic products, the survey also revealed that more than half of Americans (54 percent) have tried organic foods and beverages and nearly one in 10 use organic products regularly, or several times per week.
Americans are buying organic products for a variety of reasons, according to the survey. More than half of respondents said they believe organic foods are better for the environment (58 percent) and better for their health (54 percent).
Additionally, 57 percent said buying and using organic products are better for supporting small and local farmers. Almost one in three respondents (32 percent) said they believe organic products taste better and 42 percent said they believe organic foods are better quality.
"The survey results echo national sales trends, with recent reports indicating organic food sales hit $10 billion and 20 percent sales growth last year," said Margaret Wittenberg, Whole Foods Market v.p. of governmental and public affairs.
"When I started in the natural foods industry more than 25 years ago, most organic items were in the produce aisle. But today, the selection stretches throughout the store from farm-fresh produce to handcrafted pastas, cereals, dairy products, wines, cheeses, chocolates, grains, vinegars and almost every product imaginable. The sheer variety and the increasing number of organic products available allows our customers to find almost any organic product to fit their lifestyle," Wittenberg added.
In spite of that wider variety throughout the store, produce remains the leading category of organic food purchases. Sixty-eight percent of the respondents who currently choose organic foods said they seek fresh organic fruits and vegetables. Survey respondents said they also seek other organic foods, including: bread or baked goods (26 percent); non-dairy beverages (26 percent); eggs (26 percent); dairy products (24 percent); packaged goods such as soup or pasta (19 percent); meat (22 percent); frozen foods (18 percent); prepared foods or ready-to-go meals (14 percent); and baby food (7 percent).
The primary barrier to trying organic products is still price, according to the survey, which found almost three-quarters (73 percent) believing organics are too expensive. However, with the growth of the organic foods industry, prices are becoming more competitive as the availability and variety increase.
The annual survey, now in its third year, polled 1,000 Americans. Conducted by Synovate in August 2004, Whole Foods, which commissioned the survey, says the survey is representative of the United States adult population.
In other news, The Financial Times reported that Whole Foods plans to open three or four superstores in London in a pilot scheme for future European expansion. The Texas-based chain said it was "aggressively" seeking sites for stores of more than 40,000 square-feet in partnership with United Kingdom property developers.