The 2002 Organic Consumer Trends Report (OCTR), jointly produced by The Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) and SPINS, has been reported to show that 39% of the U.S. population - over 40 million households - uses organic products, and that this robust household penetration accounts for US$6.9bn in US food and beverage organic sales.

The OCTR includes in-depth analysis of consumer attitudes and purchase behaviour along with actual dollar and unit sales of over 40 organic product categories and 100+ sub-segments.

The report indicates that the importance of organic will continue to grow based on the US Department of Agriculture's 21 October regulation for organic food and beverage certification and labelling. The OCTR identifies a range of organic consumer segments, and compares key attitudes, behaviour and purchase patterns of each. Three US organic segments are defined as follows:

The Organic Integrated Group: Makes up 37% of all organic users, holds very strong attitudes toward organics, and consumes organics more than once a day.

The Organic Middle Group: Representing 39% of all organic users, also has very strong attitudes toward organics, and consumes organics at least weekly.

The Organic Fringe Group: Comprises 24% of all organic users, with strong attitudes toward organics, and eats organics occasionally.

Whereby the organic food and beverage market continues its double-digit growth (compared to the stagnated conventional food and beverage market), there are challenges to entering the marketplace.

Says NMI Managing Partner Steve French: "There is some fundamental misunderstanding of what makes a product organic. Across a variety of criteria regarding the understanding of organics, 48% of consumers seem to have a firm grasp of the true meaning. Additionally, and much more concerning, is the low recognition of the perceived product benefits that are derived from organics, including taste, nutritional benefits, and others. Although the recent USDA label initiatives will provide awareness and credibility to the industry, marketers will need to take the responsibility of communicating these key benefits of organic products to consumers."