New data shows more households choosing organic.

Wisconsin State Farmer

WASHINGTON D.C. - As former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue begins his confirmation process to become the next Secretary of Agriculture, new Nielsen findings released by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) show things have changed in the kitchens of American households across the country, from small towns to the big cities. Organic can now be found on the shelves of kitchen cupboards and in the refrigerators of 82.3 percent of American households, including in the majority of households in rural states.

Organic Trade Association (OTA) state-by-state data shows more households – urban and rural -- are choosing organic.

In the first comprehensive look at organic purchases by households on a state-by-state level, the nationally representative Nielsen study of 100,000 households conducted in 2015 and 2016 reported that more households than ever bought organic food on a regular basis throughout 2016. The national average climbed 3.4 percent from 2015 to 82.3 percent.

“These new findings show how important organic has become to millions and millions of American families everywhere – to more than 80 percent of our nation’s 117 million households,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of OTA. “The organic community is looking forward to working with the new leadership at USDA. We are eager to show how important adequate funding is to support a strong organic program and to help organic to continue to become a part of healthy diets of households throughout our nation – including Mr. Perdue’s home state and rural states from coast to coast.”

The Nielsen findings show a number of states in which 90 percent or more of households now buy organic on a regular basis, with even the lowest levels all hovering around 70 percent. In Wisconsin, 77.6 percent of participating households bought organic, up 9.1 percent from 2015.

“Organic provides a healthy choice for consumers everywhere, and a profitable choice for farmers,” said Batcha. “The industry relies on a few critical public institutions to support this burgeoning industry, including the National Organic Program for global oversight and uniform standards and research investment targeted to organic production. Organic is fueled by consumers, and it thrives when USDA recognizes the importance of organic to rural economies and to rural households.”

Organic food sales in the United States now total around $40 billion annually, and account for around five percent of total food sales in this country. According to the Organic Trade Association’s 2016 U.S. Organic Industry Survey, total organic food sales in 2015 were $39.7 billion, up 11 percent from the previous year. This spring OTA will be releasing its 2017 industry survey, which will look at the U.S. organic market in 2016.

The Nielsen data comes from 100,000 participating households in the 48 contiguous states that are geographically and demographically diverse to represent the national population. Participating households record with a home scanner all food purchases for in-home consumption from any retail outlet, including organic items. Participants scan the Universal Product Codes (the bar codes that cashiers scan at the supermarket) to track their purchases.