ChewsWise Blog

ChewsWise Blog

Behind the O-Market

Where do organic consumers live?
Primarily in the West, according to a recent survey by Scarborough Research. Here are the top regions for organic food purchases (percentage of consumers buying organic food at least once a month in brackets).

  1. San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose (35 percent)
  2. Seattle/Tacoma (32 percent)
  3. Portland (27 percent)
  4. Washington, D.C. (26 percent)
  5. Denver (26 percent)
  6. San Diego (24 percent)
  7. Austin (23 percent)
  8. Sacramento/Stockton/Modesto (22 percent)
  9. Boston (21 percent)
  10. Phoenix (21 percent)

My take: Other surveys have shown that frequent buyers of organic food represent about 8 percent of all consumers. The figures measured here - once monthly - are a pretty low threshold and would drop sharply if they measured consumers buying at least several organic items in each trip to the store. Overall, organic sales represent about 3 percent of all supermarket purchases.

What drives purchases?
Availability. "Whole Foods and Trader Joe's have established themselves in the organics market, and as such are more popular among organics users. However, a high percentage of organics users shop prominent U.S. stores such as Wal-Mart due to its significant local market penetration," said Alisa Joseph, vice president, advertiser agency services, Scarborough Research.

My take: Surveys have shown this repeatedly. Purchases are determined by availability, though price helps too. Hence, Wal-Mart's entry into the field. This is also why the West Coast in particular has a high concentration of organic consumers: items such as fresh produce (the top segment for organic foods) are widely available.

Who are they?
The annual household income of organic consumers is $86,000 a year, 22 percent higher than the national average. They also skew toward younger families, with 19 percent more likely than the national average to be ages 18-34 and 13 percent more likely to have two or more children. 

My take: these income figures don't jive with other surveys I've seen from the Hartman Group, which has found organic consumers are close to the national median in income. Despite the widespread perception that organic shoppers are wealthier, I'm not convinced -- especially among those consumers buying very discretely, which is most. Why else would Wal-Mart rank high for purchases? As for age, I've seen other surveys that peg younger people and older consumers as more likely to buy organic food. This seems in line with those findings.