Grocery shopping is a lot different today than in our grandmothers’ time. Buying the basics like flour, sugar, milk and meat is much more complicated today. For one thing, groceries are much less of a commodity than in the olden days, and there are infinitely more choices on today's shelves. Such changes allow today's consumers to exercise their voting power with their spending dollars. Whether it’s a company, a brand, a production method, or a diet ideology, you can tell a lot about a person by looking at what is in their grocery cart.
And that brings me to organics, a niche that has shown a lot of growth in recent years, though it still represents a fraction of the commerce. While I am all for choice, one of the unfortunate results of this niche is that it's often marketed by sowing doubt in consumers’ minds about the safety, healthfulness or nutrition of conventionally produced foods and store-label products.
This is despite several studies concluding that the so-called organic edge is hype. Sure, it’s a fine choice if you think the extra expense is warranted, but consumers need to be reassured that they can trust all the foods they put into their grocery carts.
An article that appeared on Forbes.com in 2012 is now recirculating on Facebook, and I thought it was worth sharing. Henry I. Miller and Richard Cornett ask the question, “Is organic agriculture affluent narcissim?”
In essence, they pose the question, Are affluent Americans just buying organic to feed their egos?
According to the article, “As can be seen from the popularity of rip-off artists like Whole Foods markets, organic foods are popular. The U.S. market for organic produce alone was $12.4 billion last year. Some of the devotion from consumers attains almost cult-like status, which is why a recent article by Stanford University researchers that was dismissive of health or nutritional benefits of organic foods created such a furor.”
The studies cited in the article looked at pesticide residue, nutritional content and superiority of organic vs. conventional. It’s certainly worth a read.
It’s truly great that I can walk into my grocery store and choose exactly what kind of foods I want, based on desire, budget or brand loyalty; that includes organics. Even better, beef producers are able to earn premiums in such niche markets while satisfying the needs of consumers who are willing to pay top dollar to get precisely what they want.
Offering choice in the meat case is a win-win for the beef industry, but that doesn’t mean conventional beef is bad. And it should not be presented that way. What are your thoughts on this topic? Is it fair play for niche marketers to tarnish conventional product in their push to grow demand for their products? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.