Americans Don't Know What "Organic" Means

But they're still willing to pay more for it

Nov 18, 2014
Outside Magazine
labels food marketing consumerism organic natural nutrition

Most of the people surveyed knew that foods labeled "organic" or "natural" may be misleading, but wanted to trust the labels.    Gemma Billings/Flickr

A survey found that nearly 70 percent of young shoppers buy organic food, but only 20 percent thought they could define “organic.” In late September, brand consultancy BFG asked 300 people, mostly under age 35, about their thoughts on natural foods. Their responses point to the success of (and confusion surrounding) food marketing.

According to a report in Fast Co.Exist, more than 70 percent of respondents were aware that “natural” or “organic” labeling can be misleading and sometimes meaningless, but 37 percent said they still “trusted” the intent of the labels. “What I think we’re seeing in grocery stores is that consumers are ultimately idealists,” BFG CEO Kevin Meany told Fast Co.Exist. He also said that, just like fast food, many consider “super clean” foods an indulgence, “and marketers are smart.”

Meany thinks customers will increasingly demand more honest labeling. A slew of lawsuits over misleading organic labels and increasing customer skepticism (as evidenced in BFG’s survey) suggest he may be right.

Read Outside’s quick guide to understanding the labeling of organic foods.

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