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Natural vs. Organic — Again

It seems organic has a bit of work to do, if the results from a recent poll are to be believed. The survey, by the Shelton Group, found that a majority of consumers think “natural” is more important than “organic.”

The exact question was: Which is the best product description to read on a label? Thirty-one percent chose “100% Natural,” 25% named “All natural ingredients” and only 14% stated “100% organic.”

The results expose a glaring contradiction that — amazingly — continues to exist in wellness marketing. Consumers have it all backward. They prefer natural over organic, but it’s organic that actually possesses a government standard.

“They prefer the word ‘natural’ over the term ‘organic,’ thinking organic is more of an unregulated marketing buzzword that means the product is more expensive,” noted Suzanne Shelton, president of the firm that conducted the poll. “In reality, the opposite is true.”

Yeah, in reality, this shouldn’t be a surprise to the industry. The Organic Trade Association has long noted the need for consumers to become better informed about the definition of organic and what the word truly means. Just this spring, the OTA and the Organic Institute launched “Organic. It’s worth it.”, a national consumer education and marketing campaign.

More recently, it touted its own stats showing that families haven’t given up purchasing organic products. The OTA/Kiwi Magazine poll showed that 73% of U.S. families buy organic products at least occasionally, “chiefly for health reasons.”

The OTA/Kiwi survey also showed that “three in ten U.S. families (31%) are actually buying more organic foods compared to a year ago, with many parents preferring to reduce their spending in other areas before targeting organic product cuts.”

Regardless of which numbers you believe, the Shelton findings are a reminder that there’s a huge hole where "natural" is concerned. The word needs shape and structure — and standards, just like organic. Then let’s answer that label question and see what happens.