What you need to know

While many sectors of the economy have been negatively impacted by the economic downturn, the natural/organic sectors of the food and beverage business (NOFB) have proven to be quite resilient. While this sector has slowed considerably since 2008, it continued to outpace growth of traditional food and beverage products during 2008-09. Most segments of the NOFB industry continued to experience growth throughout the economic downturn because many users have integrated the products into their lifestyles and define themselves in part as users of natural/organic products. In other words, usage is partly a function of the fact that most are seeking better health for themselves and the environment, but is also a function of the fact that many make this choice as a lifestyle definer.

In order to explore the attitudes of NOFB users and gain a better understanding as to how these affect sales, Mintel addressed the following questions:

  • What influence do the healthy eating and cooking at home trends have on demand for NOFB?

  • How have obesity and sustainability trends impacted interest in NOFB?

  • What types of products have market leaders developed to appeal to the attitudes and lifestyles of natural/organic users?

  • To what extent has the recession driven users to “trade down” from name brands to private label and to what extent have they been compelled to trade down from organic to natural?

  • How widespread is interest in vegetarian and vegan foods among those who use natural/organic foods and beverages?

  • How do attitudinal and behavioral trends in the natural/organic market compare to broader trends analyzed in Mintel’s American Lifestyles—U.S., January 2010?


This report is the first of its kind from Mintel, focusing entirely on consumer attitudes towards the NOFB market. This report builds on the analysis presented in Mintel’s Organic Food & Drink Retailing—U.S., November 2009, as well Mintel’s Organic Food—U.S., October 2008, Organic Beverages—U.S., September 2008, and the 2007 and 2006 reports of the same titles. In addition, this report also builds on the analysis presented in the set of three reports covering the natural/organic products marketplace:

  • Natural Products Marketplace—Beverages—U.S., December 2009
  • Natural Products Marketplace—Frozen and Refrigerated Foods—U.S., December 2009
  • Natural Products Marketplace—Shelf-Stable Foods—U.S., December 2009.

By comparison, the terms “natural” and “organic” are defined as follows in this report and the reports mentioned above:

  • Natural is a term that currently has no industry-wide meaning. As such, the term is often abused. However, in general the term refers to products that are free of artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives. Furthermore, natural (or all-natural) products are made with “minimal processing” to improve overall quality and nutritional value. For example, raw cane sugar or whole grain flour would be common in natural products in place of high-fructose corn syrup, refined sugar or bleached flour. Products are often labeled as “natural,” “all-natural,” or “100% natural.”
  • Organic is a term that does have government standards associated with it. It is similar to “natural” as a term, but goes above and beyond it. Importantly, organic agriculture is grown without the use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers the National Organic Program (NOP), and under it, farmers and food processors must follow regulations of growing and manufacture in order to be certified organic. There are currently 56 U.S. certification agencies accredited by the USDA, including Organic Crop Improvement Association, California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), Quality Assurance International (QAI), and Indiana Certified Organic. The NOP covers fresh and processed agricultural food products, including crops and livestock. Products that are more than 95% organic can utilize the USDA NOP Organic seal on front-of-package labels.

Data sources

Consumer survey data

For the purposes of this report, Mintel commissioned exclusive consumer research through Greenfield Online Research Center to explore consumer consumption of/attitudes and behaviors towards NOFB. Mintel was responsible for the survey design, data analysis and reporting. Fieldwork was conducted in December 2009 among a sample of 2,000 adults aged 18+ with access to the internet.

Mintel selects survey respondents so that they are proportionally balanced to the entire U.S. adult population based on the key demographics of gender, age, household income, and region. Mintel also slightly oversamples, relative to the population, respondents that are Hispanic or black to ensure an adequate representation of these groups in our survey results. Please note that Mintel’s exclusive surveys are conducted online and in English only. Hispanics who aren’t online and/or don’t speak English aren’t included in our survey results.

Mintel has also analyzed data from Experian Consumer Research, using the Simmons National Consumer Survey (NCS) and the Simmons National Hispanic Consumer Survey (NHCS). The NCS/NHCS was carried out from April 2008 through June 2009 and the results are based on the sample of 25,318 adults aged 18+, with results weighted to represent the U.S. adult population.

While race and Hispanic origin are separate demographic characteristics, Mintel often compares them to each other. Please note that the responses for race (white, black, Asian, Native American, or other race) will overlap those that also are Hispanic, because Hispanics can be of any race.

Within the analysis of the NCS/NHCS survey, Mintel ran cross-tabs against Mosaic segmentation groups. Mosaic groups are household-based cohesive groups that share distinct demographic, lifestyle and consumer behavior characteristics, and are representative of 99.5% of all households within the population. The groups discussed in the Market Factors: Sustainability and Natural/Organic Usage, by Lifestyle Segment sections of this report are chosen based on Mosaic groups that exhibit the greatest likelihood to use NOFB.

For a complete list of Mosaic groups and breakdown by percentage of U.S. households, please see Research Methodology.

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VMS tracks competitive advertising content and activity in key industries across a broad spectrum of local and national media. VMS also captures and measures local and national editorial activity related to industries and brands to provide marketers with a unique view of the total media environment in which they compete.

Abbreviations and terms


There follows a list of abbreviations used in this report.

ANDI Aggregate Nutrient Density Index
BFY Better-for-you
BMI Body Mass Index
CCOF California Certified Organic Farmers
CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
CPG Consumer packaged goods
FDMx Food, Drug and Mass Merchandisers, excluding Walmart—IRI definition
FOP Front of Package labeling
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Generations are discussed within this report, and they are defined as:

World War II The generation born in 1932 or before. In 2010, members of this generation are aged 78 or older.
Swing Generation The generation born between 1933 and 1945. In 2010, members of the Swing generation are between the ages of 65 and 77.
Baby Boomers The generation born between 1946 and 1964. In 2010, Baby Boomers are between the ages of 46 and 64.
Generation X The generation born between 1965 and 1976. In 2010, Generation Xers are between the ages of 34 and 45.
Millennials* The generation born between 1977 and 1994. In 2010, Millennials are between the ages of 16 and 33.
Matrix Generation** The generation born from 1994 to present. In 2010, Matrices are aged 15 or younger.

* also known as Generation Y or Echo Boomers

** previously known as Post-Millennials

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