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Why it's popular, where it's heading

The evolution of organic products

The public profile of organic food surged in the early 2000s, when consumers began to see the connection between diet, health and the environment. As shoppers today turn to clean labels and demand transparency in what they eat and drink, organic is ideally positioned to address these concerns while providing growth in an industry that desperately needs it.

Organic food sales in the U.S. totalled approximately $43 billion in 2016, up $3.3 billion from the prior year, according to the latest figures from the Organic Trade Association. Overall, organic accounted for 5.3% of total food sales.

And growth isn't expected to slow down anytime soon. A recent research report estimated the global organic food market is projected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of more than 14% between 2016 and 2021.

"We're seeing innovations in baby and children's foods, and there's a lot of evidence that better-for-you snacking is continuing to be on trend," Laura Batcha, executive director with the Organic Trade Association, told Food Dive. "There's still a lot of opportunities in the United States for expansion as well as export of organic, particularly fresh product globally. You look in the retail space and retailers are continuing to accelerate their investment in organic options in their stores."

Benefits of organic
The push toward more organic farming methods -fewer chemicals, better soil management and more biodynamic methods- isn't new. It actually began back in the 1940s, so organic is more of a return to how things used to be, although with better equipment, more streamlined supply chains and the benefit of today's modern marketing and retailing.

Taste and flavour have been major contributors to today's organic trend. As consumers experimented, typically with organic fruits and vegetables at first, some claimed they had taste and flavours that conventional produce seemed to lack.

Nutrients are another factor assisting in organic's popularity, even though there is ongoing debate over whether it has a higher nutritional profile than conventionally grown food. Other shoppers are attracted to food raised and grown without synthetic pesticides.

There's no question the demand for organic foods and beverages will continue and that manufacturers are finding creative ways to expand their offerings. The organic sector is changing, with new definitions, certifications, products, policies and even new consumers constantly being added to the fold.

"I think we're continuing to see strong growth there, which is understandable in terms of the demographic wave," Batcha said. "I think also new frontiers for organic are because of accessibility, and availability of products, and awareness of what organic is, and the percolation of better-for-your choices across the consciousness of consumers across the board."

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