Who Knows What ‘Organic’ Means?

The Lempert Report
December 16, 2014

We all love to be healthy and we all love ‘organics’, but how many of us actually know what that means?

Increasingly we're seeing consumers care more about the food they put in their mouth. But when shoppers buy products labeled ‘organic’ or ‘gluten free’ how many of us really understand the definition? According to brand consultancy BFG; not many! 

When they surveyed 300 shoppers recently, they found that while nearly 70% were buying some organic foods, only 20% thought they could define what “organic” means.

BFG CEO, Kevin Meany told Fast Company; “What I think we’re seeing in grocery stores is that consumers are ultimately idealists. They desire honesty. They want to believe. They trust the label, and they’re willing to pay more based on that for something like ‘all-natural’ even though they’re not totally sure what it means.”

More than 70% of BFG’s survey respondents said that they agreed some food labels were meaningless, but 37% said they still “trusted” the label’s intent. Similarly, 59% of respondents said they were concerned about genetically modified organisms (GMOs), but only 32% could define what a GMO was.

Major retailers,   like Whole Foods and Trader Joes frequently use “all natural,” “natural,” or  “organic” labeling on products, and while the FDA does regulate these terms, consumer advocacy groups note that definitions are a little loose.

The appeal of ‘healthy foods’ has certainly grown in recent years, but will the trend of labeling ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ soon fade away in favor of labeling that actually tells the truth? Meany agrees, “Those brands that truly have a point of difference, if they can communicate that clearly and prove it to the consumer, they will have a distinct advantage.” 

For retailers, it’s important to remember that transparency wins. Customers want to trust the products they buy and where they’re buying them from.