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The power of organic: Turning snacks into health foods?

By Kacey Culliney , 18-Oct-2012

Organic snack purchases are on the rise across the US but consumers do not associate this branding with health, new research finds.

US market analysts The Hartman Group released its latest report ‘Organic and Natural 2012’ and held a webinar on the topic on October 16.

The report compiled syndicated research from in-depth interviews, ethnographic research groups and an online survey conducted in July 2012 of 1,569 US adults.

Around three quarters of US consumers purchase organic, the report found, although the extent of purchasing habits vary.

Just under a quarter of US organic consumers are thoroughly committed to purchasing organic, 61% seek knowledge and experiment with organic foods and 15% merely dabble in the sector.

Organic impact in snacks

Amy Sousa, senior ethnographic analyst at The Hartman Group, said that while spending on organic processed foods is on the rise, the impact of organic is weaker in the snacks sector.

“Organic does not have the power to transform chips, cookies and other processed treats into health foods. Nor does it make sense to consumers to pay the organic premium for organic ‘junk foods’,” Sousa said in the webinar.

“Consumers today are less likely to assume a product is healthy simply because it carries the organic label,” she said.

“More and more consumers identify themselves as label readers; the small print on the back of the box matters. However, the organic certification loses appeal on products full of sugar, corn syrup and unidentified ingredients,” she said.

However, research conducted at Cornell University last year suggests otherwise. Researchers found that organic labeling of processed foods had a ‘halo’ effect – it positively impacted consumers’ perceptions. (See HERE )

Less brand loyalty

Sousa noted that the increase in packaged organics spending is more sporadic. “Nutrient-dense whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, milk, cheese and eggs, continue to be their top priority,” she said.

When consumers do purchase organic processed foods, brand recognition is weaker, she said, and price reductions are more likely to prompt a purchase rather than product loyalty.

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