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Organic products show resiliency in recession

SQUASH A variety of reports over the last week demonstrate the growing entrenchment of organic goods.

Market research firm Mintel said recent survey data showed that nearly 40% of consumers claimed they hadn’t changed organic-product purchasing habits because of the recession and only 3% had stopped buying organic products altogether.

“Heavy users of natural and organic food and drink are most likely to indicate they’ve traded down to less expensive organic options,” said David Browne, senior analyst at Mintel. “However, less-frequent consumers of organic products have shown that they haven’t shifted their behavior. This is good news for the organic food and drink market, as this group may begin to buy more once recession-related fears begin to fade.”

Organic-food sales dipped slightly this year --  0.3% -- but are expected to bounce back next year, though like other goods probably not at pre-recession growth rates, according to Mintel.

Another indicator of how organic products are taking root is the news that U.S. growers of organic cotton increased acreage by 26% in 2009 over what was planted in 2008, according to a study funded by trade group Cotton Inc.

Organic cotton is grown without the use of persistent pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Moreover, federal regulations prohibit the use of genetically engineered seed for organic farming.

And in a list of top food trends released last week, advertising agency J. Walter Thompson noted that organic has become “the new hook in quick-service eateries.” It cites chains such as Organic to Go, Naked Pizza and O!Burger popping up around the U.S. and said the trend has hit Europe too. For more on hot food trends, click here.

-- Jerry Hirsch
Twitter.com/LATimesJerry

Photo: Yellow zucchini grown by J.R. Organic Farms in Escondido. Credit: David Karp / For The Times
 
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