Consumers Demand More Local Organic Food

Organic food sales in the United States increased from approximately $1 billion in 1990, to $11 billion in 2004, to $27 billion in 2012 (Nutrition Business Journal). Although the annual growth rate for organic food sales fell from the double-digit range in 2008 as the U.S. economy slowed, its 7.4-percent growth rate in 2012 was more than double the annual growth rate forecast for all food sales in 2012. The market for organic food in the U.S. is predicted to exceed $80 billion by 2015 (MarketLine).

consumer demand drives growth for organic food sector

Organic sales, however, still account for a relatively small proportion of total U.S. food sales — just over 3  1/2 percent in 2012 — up from only 2 percent in 2004. And in some parts of the world, like the U.K. according to an article published by The Guardian (2011), we have actually seen a decline in the organic food industry.

In order to devise strategies for accelerating the movement toward sustainable agriculture, we set out to examine the primary drivers of the organic movement.


Commenting on the factors that affect the success of organic farmers at local food markets, researchers from the United States Department of Agriculture explain:

“freshness, high quality, fair pricing, pleasant social interaction with farmers and market shoppers, and locally grown foods are attributes commonly sought by customers attending farmers’ markets. Vendors at farmers’ markets also frequently provide heirloom and specialty produce varieties, hand-crafted products, and other items valued by customers but difficult to mass produce and are rare at other markets. This study shows that many customers at farmers’ markets also appreciate having direct access to farmers that use ecologically sensitive agricultural techniques—such as organic production methods—on their farms.”[1]

Nutrition. Many consumers opt for organic food because it is simply more nutritious than conventionally grown produce.

Comparing nutritional charts
Comparing nutritional charts

Taste. Some individuals and restaurants buy organic, locally-produced food merely because it tastes better.

Awareness. The movement toward “real” or “slow” food is also growing because consumers are demanding more transparency in the food chain. Consumer awareness about the potential health risks from eating genetically modified diets is increasing as more independent scientists publish their findings on the topic. In turn, food producers and grocers are responding to consumers concerns by shifting to more “labeled” foods — local, organic, non-GMO, etc. See our other post on how the number of local farmers markets has risen considerably in recent years.
Marija Radman, "Consumer consumption and perception of organic products in Croatia," 107 British Food Journal 263 (2005).
Marija Radman, “Consumer consumption and perception of organic products in Croatia,” 107 British Food Journal 263 (2005).
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, farmers’ markets near major urban areas and communities near universities and other centers for higher education tended to have the strongest demand for organic products. The “customers with strong demand for organically grown products were most likely to exhibit interest in the social and environmental issues within agriculture, such as the relationship of agriculture to human and animal health, sustainable development, water scarcity, environmental pollution, and wildlife protection.”[1] On the other hand, the demand for organic products and success of local farmers’ markets “may be dampened by:
  • Limited number of local organic farmers available to sell at markets,
  • Limited awareness and interest of some consumers and farmers in organic production systems, and
  • Negative perceptions of organic products or . . . pricing.”[1]

Educating Consumers   ∞   Empowering Farmers   ∞   Sustaining Communities

FarmXchange hopes to further the trend toward sustainable agriculture by not only educating consumers about the harmful effects of conventional agricultural methods and the benefits of consuming organic produce, but by providing farmers with low-cost, low-input organic methods of production to increase their yield and profitability, while also lessening their impact on the environment and nurturing local communities.

The Real Costs of Your Food

~~~Happy, Healthy, Safe Farming, Eating, Living~~~


[1] Amy Kremen, Catherine Greene, & Jim Hanson, Organic Produce, Price Premiums, and Eco-Labeling in U.S. Farmers’ Markets, VGS-301-01 USDA, available at

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