Originally published November 10, 2017 on The Packer
By Jim Offner
Organic consumption is spiking in Canada, according to a report from the Canada Organic Trade Association.
The association’s data show 66% of Canadian shoppers are spending at least some of their weekly grocery budget on organic items, compared to 56% in 2016. The association released the data ahead of an update on the Canadian Organic Market Report, which last came out in 2013.
“Organic is the fastest-growing category in agriculture in Canada and has consistent sales growth across all product categories,” the association’s executive director Tia Loftsgard said in a news release. “Canadians are demanding more and more variety in their organic purchases, which is driving the market to keep up with this next generation’s desire for more organic.”
Millennial consumers are major drivers of the sales surge, said Jill Guerra, the association’s research and special projects coordinator.
“They’re more likely to purchase organics,” she said. “There’s an increased awareness of benefits of organics, and it’s starting to include other reasons, such as environmental benefits.”
The association released several “teasers” ahead of the Fall 2017 update, due out in November. For example, the report notes that of Canadians who purchase organic products, 76% buy organic produce, compared to 28% for meat/poultry and 27% for dairy products.
Presently, 80% of shoppers buy organic products at grocery stores or supermarkets, with 39% buying from mass retailers and 24% from natural health stores, the association said.
“Consumers are asking more questions about the food they eat. They want to make healthier choices and this will lead many to select organic produce,” said Ray Wowryk, director of business development with Leamington, Ontario-based greenhouse vegetable grower-shipper NatureFresh Farms, which offers organics.
Millennials are driving the upturn in organics sales, the association said, noting that 83% of consumers from that age group are purchasing organic food and beverages. Households with children are also more likely to buy organic than households without — 19% of the weekly grocery bill for households with children goes toward organic items, compared to 12% for those with no children.
The association commissioned an online consumer research study, which had 1,002 participants 18 and older between May 30 and June 4, 2017, with the results adjusted by quotas and weighting to reflect Canada’s overall population.
“In Canada, fresh organic produce growth is strongest in the province of British Columbia and in major cities,” said Michael Castagnetto, vice president of global sourcing with Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Robinson Fresh. “Populations in these areas tend to include all of the right data points for organic produce consumption: residents who have young families with children, are well-educated and ethnically diverse.”
Canadian consumers are no different from their counterparts in the U.S., who also are buying more organic produce each year, said Chris Ford, organic category director with the Vancouver, British Columbia-based Oppenheimer Group.
“The trends that are driving in the U.S. are the same in Canada,” he said.
Andy Tudor, director of business development with Selah, Wash.-based grower-shipper Rainier Fruit Co., said he continues to see his company’s sales to Canada increase.
“I think their spiking consumption is probably due to waking up to the category and also having the right varieties out there, offering the varieties people want, such as Honeycrisp, fuji, granny smith and gala,” he said.