The changing organic consumer

Organic products have been steadily rising in popularity over the past 10 years, growing to a $63.3 billion industry in 2021 as reported by the Organic Trade Association. In that time, organic has moved from a niche market to mainstream and the organic consumer has also evolved, mainly due to a post-pandemic renewed focus on personal health, climate change and sustainability.

As shoppers purchase more organic products, there are a number of attributes driving purchases. The focus on personal health is associated with other brand attributes and trends such as clean label, no artificial ingredients, sustainability and using food as medicine. With such a rapid increase in claims around sustainability, some consumers are beginning to look more to certifications.

Organic shoppers always appreciate good value for the money, product quality and price. But how the product is manufactured or grown is also a factor they consider. Social responsibility, sustainable farming, environmental sustainability, sustainable packaging and animal welfare are attributes consumers are seeking that are on the rise.

Compared to other wellness-related claims, organic products have a high household penetration across all categories. Between August 2021 and 2022, some of the fastest-growing organic categories were alcoholic beverage mixers, cookies and crackers, frozen beverages, feminine care, sun care and diet and nutrition—categories that span the entire grocery store. This shows growth in categories beyond the typical produce and dairy aisles. There is strong interest in categories such as organic health and recovery drinks, dog food, organic bath preparations/body wash and even baby food, which has experienced a 37% increase in online searches.

As shoppers look for full transparency from brands, certifications are becoming a popular way for consumers to easily decipher which products meet their needs. Gluten-free, vegan, regenerative, cruelty-free, Fair Trade and more are popping up on everything. In fact, products carrying multiple claims grew about twice as fast in sales than those that did not make any claims. Consumers find security in the regulations that back these certifications.

Due to the current economic climate as well as other factors, the organic market has been affected by challenging headwinds. According to Nielsen IQ data, organic product sales softened between August 2021 and 2022. Not surprising, given that the consumer price index rose 9.1% year over year ending in June 2022. Still, reported growth remains strong compared to pre-pandemic growth despite inflationary pressures; pandemic-related supply-chain disruptions; global political events; and labour shortages that affected organic producers. Inflation heated up costs across both organic and conventional supply chains, boosting prices in grocery aisles. As a result, the organic sector reflected the overall food sector, with the value of organic sales rising even as sales volume growth slowed in some categories.

Source: “Meet the new organic shopper”, New Hope Network, May 2023

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Canadian trends//December 6, 2023

In the past four years the grocery industry has seen seismic shifts to supply chains, transportation channels, and economic uncertainty that has evolved consumer behaviour and ultimately the retail landscape.

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