The organic food business is booming. In fact, organic is the fastest growing sector of the US food industry, growing 10.6% in 2015 to nearly $40 billion, significantly ahead of the 3% growth in the overall food market.1
Although the organic market has grown, it is still a small slice of the pie. Only 4% of food sales go to organic products and less than 1% of our farmland in in the US is organic. However, the growth of organic is expected to accelerate quickly. So what exactly does organic mean and what are the trends underway?
The term “organic” refers to food grown and processed without chemical toxins, artificial ingredients, chemical preservatives or ionizing radiation. Organic crops must be grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), or synthetic fertilizers.2
Some studies have indicated that the use of pesticides, even at low doses, can increase the risk of certain cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, brain tumors and other cancers. And, the widespread use of pesticides has led to the emergence of “super weeds” and “super bugs” which can only be killed with extremely toxic poisons.3
Are Organic Products Healthier?
Organic foods may have higher nutritional value than conventional food, according to some research. Plants boost their production of vitamins and antioxidants in the absence of pesticides and fertilizers, in order to strengthen their resistance to bugs and weeds. Organic foods tend to have higher natural minerals than non-organic as well. For example, organic snap beans have over 20x the level of iron as conventional beans!4
Organic is Mainstream
Once only found in health-food stores, organic foods can now be found in most mainstream grocery stores. 2014 marked the first year that conventional grocery stores sold 50% of organic food. Wal-Mart is now the largest retailer for organic, followed by Costco. This widespread distribution, along with a few other key trends, is fueling the growth of organic across the US.
The boom in organic food has led to some of the nation’s largest food companies taking a stake in small organic outfits. Guess who now owns Annie’s Homegrown or Rudi’s Organic Bakery? While some experts debate if this influx of money from conventional food companies is good or bad, it is certainly helping to accelerate the growth in organic.
A Priority for Parents
Buying organic is a top priority for many American parents, according to new research from the Organic Trade Association. The trade group’s 2016 US Families Organic Attitudes and Beliefs study revealed that 35% of US families “make a great deal of effort” to choose organic foods and products. In fact, 85% of parents said buying organic baby foods was “extremely” or “very important.” Millennial parents choose organic more than any other generation.
Are Organic Foods More Expensive?
Generally, organic products are more expensive. But when you think about the benefits of buying organic, it’s probably cheaper in the long run, considering you may save money on medical bills.
That said, if you’re on a tight budget and need to prioritize which organic products to buy, here are the top 19 products to consider and the reasons why.
Organic vs. Natural
Some people confuse the meaning of organic with natural. It turns out, there are no real guidelines for the term “natural” when used on packaged goods. Recently the FDA probed into the meaning of “natural” claims. Many people believe the term natural is meaningless for the purposes of food labeling. If the FDA prohibits the use of the term “natural” on food labels, some predict this will just fuel the growth of organic. Annie’s president John Foraker predicts the term “natural’ would fade in importance as organic continues to gather pace, “I think that the natural products industry will move to organic. That’s where it’s going and it’s what consumers want.” He adds, “Today 4-5% of the US food market is organic but we could get to 20%.”