Young Americans will pay more if a food item is labeled “organic” and yet are puzzled as to what this designation actually means. A brand consultancy firm BFG recently conducted a survey of 300 shoppers to find out if they knew what food being labeled organic meant. 70% were buying some sort of organic items. Yet, only 20% knew what organic really means. Most of the respondents were under 35 years old, the firm states. CEO of the firm Kevin Meany says, “What I think we’re seeing in grocery stores is that consumers are ultimately idealists.” He went on, “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.” The FDA does not currently regulate what is called organic and what isn’t. The regulatory body itself says it defines the term rather loosely.
Upscale supermarket chains such as Trader Joes and Whole Foods have been the subject of lawsuits in recent years over the terms “organic”, “natural”, and “all-natural.” In BFG’s survey, 70% of participants said they thought food labels weren’t truthful. 37% said they believed in the intent the label was expressing. 59% said they were worried about consuming genetically modified organisms (GMOs). But a scant 32% could actually say what a GMO was. Jimmy Kimmel Live! recently did a bit asking random people what a GMO was, and few could answer. Meany says, “I think there’s a constant throughout all this, and its indulgence.” He goes on, “Of the two extremes, indulgence [can be] super clean foods, organic, locally sourced. And on the other side, there’s just, ‘I’m going to Carl’s Jr. and get a thickburger and love it.’ They’re both basically consumer indulgences. And marketers are smart.” There are a few organic brands that do rise above the hype and hyperbole. Meany explains, “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.”