More Organics Ending Up in the Basket

Organic foods are making a larger impact in consumers’ shopping choices in 2010, according to the results of Whole Foods Market’s annual Food Shopping Trends Tracker survey, conducted online in June by Harris Interactive.

While about three out of four adults continue to purchase natural and/or organic foods, the number of organic products found in their grocery basket has increased. Notably, 27 percent of adults say that natural and/or organic foods comprise more than a quarter of their total food purchases this year, up from just 20 percent a year ago.

Celebrating its 30th anniversary in September, Whole Foods Market also surveyed Baby Boomers online in June (via Harris Interactive) about food attitudes and purchasing habits today compared to three decades ago. More than four-fifths of adults say they are now more concerned with what foods they eat, they read nutrition labels more closely today and have a better understanding of how their food is produced than they did in 1980.

“There has been a sea change these past 30 years in shopper attitudes toward food with a growing appetite for information on how and where food is produced to what’s in the food and how it impacts health,” said Michael Besancon, Whole Foods senior global VP of purchasing, distribution and marketing. “Looking to the future, Whole Foods Market will continue to be a trusted source for our shoppers who are asking more questions about food while striving to eat healthier.”

For a snapshot of how food buying habits have changed over the past 30 years, Whole Foods Market asked boomers to rank the top items nearly always in the pantry or refrigerator in 1980 compared to today.

In 1980, the top five items were: milk, canned or frozen vegetables, white bread, carbonated soft drinks and iceberg lettuce.

In 2010, the top five items are fresh fruit, milk, fresh vegetables, wheat or whole-grain bread and canned or frozen vegetables.

Comparing the two time periods, spring or mixed lettuces show the highest increase in popularity today among boomers (59 percent currently vs. 14 percent 30 years ago), followed by wheat or whole-grain bread (77 percent currently vs. 34 percent), and whole-grain cereal with little or no sugar (66/26%).

Conversely, sugary cereal shows the largest decline in popularity among boomers (63 percent 30 years ago vs. just 19 percent today), closely followed by white bread (74/31).

Most boomers report they are now more concerned about fat, cholesterol and added growth hormones and antibiotics in meat and dairy products than in 1980.

More than half (54 percent) of boomers say they buy more organic and/or natural foods today. This finding is in line with findings from the Whole Foods Market Food Shopping Trends Tracker survey that show an increase in adults who say if prices are comparable they prefer to buy natural and/or organic foods over conventional foods (73 percent), and they would like to find ways to be able to buy natural and/or organic foods within their budget (72 percent), both experiencing a significant 7-point increase from last year’s findings.

Most adults say current food prices continue to impact how they shop for groceries (84 percent), and the economy has impacted their cooking and eating habits (77 percent). Specifically, they are eating dinner at home more often and eating out less (59 percent) and are budgeting food shopping trips more strictly (42 percent). Of those adults who indicated that current food prices have affected their grocery shopping 46 percent say they go out of their way to look for lower-cost items, 56 percent say they prepare more meals at home, and 26 percent plan meals for the week and buy only what they need for that week.

“While the economic downturn has brought renewed attention to getting more value for less money, it is encouraging to see that shoppers don’t want to cut corners on healthy, high quality food,” Besancon said. The survey found, regardless of current food prices, the majority (72 percent) of adults say they don’t want to compromise on the quality of the food they buy.