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Trend Spotting: What are Natural and Organic Food Consumers (Like You!) Looking For?

23 June 2010 4 Comments

When the natural food section at my local supermarket expanded from three shelves to three full aisles two years ago, I got the strong impression that I was no longer one of the “few” consumers scrutinizing labels for all-natural and special diet foods. Demand is thankfully growing, and my favorite coupon site, Mambo Sprouts, used their marketing research team to find out what drives natural and organic food consumers.

The results were surprising and intriguing … for me at least. Check out the stats and see what groups your shopping habits fall into:

80% of natural and organic consumers (so we are talking a specialty group already, not the public at large) regularly read labels for ingredient and nutrition information and are interested in purchasing functional foods with added health benefits. 39% checked off that they were very interested in functional foods.

In terms of those functional foods with added benefits, 44% have an eye out for calcium (hmm, I think many of you dairy-free foodies may be in this category), 44% want more Omega-3’s, 43% like antioxidants, 38% seek out tummy taming probiotics and probiotics, and 30% are on the Vitamin D bandwagon.

Among the natural and organic consumers surveyed, 65% expressed a strong desire for foods with organic ingredients, 47% seek low sodium products, 39% look for low fat and low cholesterol grocery items, and 31% are on a vegetarian mission. 

So what about those allergen-free shoppers? Mambo Sprouts didn’t forget us in their survey … in fact 1 in 3 natural product consumers are on the hunt for allergen-free foods. 25% of shoppers report looking for gluten-free / wheat-free foods, 9% of us want dairy-free foods, 6% have the daunting task of looking for soy-free foods, while 4% must avoid peanuts.

Though I am well aware of the rise in Celiac disease diagnoses, I was a bit surprised by the high number of gluten-free food seeking consumers, who seem to be on the hunt for bread, cereal, chips, snacks, and pasta mostly. At first I wondered if the incidence of Celiac disease was rising even more quickly than we realize, but it seems there are many reasons why consumers are leaning toward gluten-free foods. 43% of gluten-free shoppers simply feel that gluten-free products are healthier for their family, and 36% said it was simply because their favorite brands were gluten-free already. Just 34% of gluten-free consumers (not that this is a small number in the grand scheme of things) have a household member with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. The study actually state “wheat intolerance” so I am not sure if that 34% included both gluten intolerance and wheat allergies.

But, we are an eco-conscious bunch too. 40% have recently tried a new brand or switched brands, specifically because it had more earth friendly packaging; 66% bought products made of recycled materials, and 44% picked up items with compostable/biodegradable packaging.

Keep in mind, this was a relatively small survey, completed by 600 natural product consumers in April, 2010, so the numbers may have some variance.

Personally, I obviously seek out dairy-free foods, but I also purchase soy-free foods – not for an allergy, but simply because I prefer my soy in “pure” form such as tofu, rather than loading up on it in packaged foods. I eat gluten-free a lot, but don’t necessarily seek it out in stores. I confess that since I buy few packaged foods, and most of those brands are eco-conscious themselves, I haven’t paid much attention to packaging, but may keep a better eye out now. I’m actually not a fan of functional foods, though I don’t bypass a food simply because it contains them, I just don’t seek them out. Oh yes, and I always read ingredient statements (always!), but the nutrition label with fat, calories, etc. is of lesser importance to me.

So what about you? Where do your shopping habits fall in these categories? Give me your feedback! Are there other natural food shopping habits you have that may not have been addressed here?


  • Sara said:

    I feel like what doesn’t get mentioned is looking for unprocessed foods in general. For instance, I won’t buy packaged products with refined wheats or sugars, which is still difficult even in places such as Whole Foods. Places such as Trader Joe’s are FILLED with processed foods despite trying to claim that it’s all healthy, and I still shop there but that’s the main thing I look for. Oh and when it comes to dairy I try to buy grass fed only but that’s also really difficult.

  • Valerie @ City|Life|Eats said:

    This is really interesting information. Thank you for sharing it. Regarding gluten – I fall in the category of non-celiac gluten intolerant, though, honestly, it was by trial and error that my naturopath and I came to that conclusion. My single biggest symptom is joint stiffness, followed by anxiety. Digestive upset is only a distant third in terms of reactions, so it took a long time to establish the first two were related to gluten (as opposed to any number of things). Perhaps people are more in tune with their reactions to food than before? Also, someone looking for whole grain alternatives who does not like whole wheat could be buying brown rice pasta for reasons that have nothing to do with wheat or gluten intolerance.

  • Cherie said:

    I totally agree with Sara. I’m on a anti-Candida overgrowth/Primal type diet (gluten sensitive)and so I never eat processed foods and haven’t for five years. I use a lot of super foods like chia, hemp, maca, flax, ect. Unfortunately, as hard as I’ve tried, my family still does eat all that processed crap. I really wish they would start to manufacture more gluten-free foods that are also sugar-free (but no splenda!!). So for my family I always try to find as much gluten-free and organic/non-GMO brands as I can, which can be difficult. Like you said though, it is getting a little easier and the more we request them the more they will produce. I also like to shop online at vitacost.com, they have a large organic food section and it is only $4.99 flat rate to ship. For grass-fed beef I use tallgrassbeef.com, they run specials on the ground beef.

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