By: Maria Lamagna <email@example.com>
Junior Colin Ray has eaten organic foods at home for three years. He said that his parents started to buy them when they were inspired by a diet-conscious friend.
Ever since, Ray said that eating organic foods has given him peace of mind. His family buys organic versions of foods like milk, eggs, sour cream, soy milk and many summer vegetables. The purchases “make me feel better about what I’m eating,” Ray said.
With their switch to buying organic products, Ray and his family are part of an enormous movement in the food and grocery industries. According to the article “Paradise Sold” from The New Yorker, nearly two-thirds of American consumers bought organic foods in 2005, paying a 50 percent premium over conventionally produced products on average.
Furthermore, according to Consumer Reports magazine, the sales of organic products have risen 20 percent every year for the past 10 years.Locally, the Wild Oats Natural Marketplace in Clay Terrace has capitalized on this growth. Owned by organic product giant Whole Foods, Inc., the store opened in 2004 and offers a wide selection of organic products.
Chris Heinhold, Whole Foods Market Midwest Region Team Member Services Senior Coordinator (a human resources position), spends some of his time working at this Wild Oats store. He said that he has noticed the change in the food industry. “There has definitely been a shift in customer interest for natural and organic food of all sorts,” he said.
Wherever they have gotten their information, Heinhold said that he attributes the industry growth to increased education and exposure among buyers. “I think as consumers become more educated, the more they learn about how food is produced and raised. They want it to be pure. They don’t want preservatives and chemicals that are used in mass production,” Heinhold said.
According to Heinhold, to sell an official “organic” product, producers must undergo a certification process by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA thoroughly investigates the products and the land on which they are raised, a process that may take two or three years.
Ray said that he feels the organic products are “generally cleaner because they don’t have the pesticides and steroids (used in mass-produced products.) I know I’m not going to get E. coli or something (from organic food).”
Heinhold said many customers seem to have a certain comfort level like Ray’s with buying organic products. While not necessarily more nutritious for the body, he said organic foods seem to give health-conscious shoppers peace of mind. “It’s definitely that aspect of knowing what you eat and feeling good about it,” he said. “For many people it’s just eating food that doesn’t contain the pesticides, genetically modified organisms, hormones or steroids.
Family and consumer science teacher Nancy Hatch, who has taught classes such as Orientation to Nutrition and Wellness, said that teachers here have not necessarily promoted organic foods in their classes recently.
Still, young consumers like Ray have joined in on the organic food craze.Heinhold said that with this new generation of consumers like Ray, he believes the prominence of organic products will continue to increase. “The longer I have worked for this company, the more I have learned to live the lifestyle (of buying organic products),” he said. “As it becomes more and more popular, more farmers will undergo the certification process. And the laws of supply and demand will allow organic products to become less expensive and more readily available in all grocery stores.”
Ray said he will continue eating organic foods in the future. As for now, he said that eating conventionally grown products can even make him “a little bit cautious.”