Brattleboro, VT—A jointly sponsored study by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) and KIWI magazine found that U.S. families are enjoying organic food in greater quantities and in a broader range of categories. Some 41% of parents reported buying more organic food than in the previous year, and over three-quarters of U.S. households were found to use some organic products.

The study, titled U.S. Families’ Organic Attitudes & Beliefs 2010, describes how parents buy organic products because they find them generally healthier, and because they meet concerns about the effects of pesticides, hormones and antibiotics on children. People also turn to organic in order to avoid highly processed foods and artificial ingredients, says the study. Three in 10 households have begun to purchase organic products in the last two years.

The perception of price differences between conventional and organic products is an obstacle, but the study showed there is an opportunity for marketers to convince consumers of the superior value of organic. There is also room to educate them about the differences between certified organic, conventional and unregulated “natural” products. When deciding whether to buy organic, income level is less of a factor than awareness in these areas, according to the study.

Broader food sales statistics, reported by market consultants Gerson Lehrman Group and cited by Nutrition Business Journal, show natural and specialty food retail outlets, along with club and big box stores like BJ’s and Target, cutting deeply into the profits of conventional supermarkets. Seven out of the top nine conventional food retailers, including groups such as A&P and SuperValu, saw negative same-store sales growth for the first six months of 2010. Hemorrhaging sales are likely due to the fact that conventional chains lack the value-shopping pull of a store like Walmart, or the draw of quality products a store like Whole Foods Markets possesses.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, February 2011 (online 12/20/10)