“Natural” Beats “Organic” in Food Sales According to Nielsen’s Healthy Eating Report

“Natural” Beats “Organic” in Food Sales According to Nielsen’s Healthy Eating Report

Americans are increasingly turning to foods and beverages that promote healthy living.  But just how much do these foods generate in sales? And which categories have shown the most growth?  Nielsen’s Healthy Eating Report for 2008 answers these and many other questions about food and beverage health and wellness claims.

Highlights of the report include:

  • Food labeled as “natural” generated $22.3 billion in sales in 2008, up 10% from 2007, and up 37% from 2004
  • Organic foods (UPC-coded) accounted for $4.9 billion in sales, up 16% from the year before, and up 132% since 2004
  • Foods that tout antioxidants produced $1.9 billion in sales, up 11% in 2008 and up 147% since 2004
  • Foods that are targeted to those who are “carb conscious” saw sales decline 3% in 2008 to $2 billion, and declined 31% since 2004
  • Hormone/Antibiotic-free foods saw sales grow 11% in 2008 to $2.4 billion, an increase of 66% since 2004
  • Caffeine content seems to be less of a concern: sales of beverages labeled “caffeine free” declined 3% in 2008, and 5% since 2004

“Although much is written about organics, products labeled “natural” generate much higher sales.  In fact, sales of products labeled “organic” leveled off significantly in 2008 after four years of solid growth,” said Tom Pirovano, Director of Industry Insight at Nielsen. “Looking at the year ahead, it will be interesting to see how the economic downturn affects sales of foods and beverages that are primarily described as organic, which, for many consumers, have a reputation for being more expensive than other foods.”

When looking at specific types of food, Nielsen found several interesting facts, including:

  • Milk represents 25% of all “fat free” sales although fat-free milk only makes up 18% of milk sales
  • Cheese labeled “natural” represents 69% of all cheese sales and 32% of all “natural” food and beverage sales
  • 38% of snack foods are described as saturated or trans fat-free
  • Beer labeled as “reduced calorie” accounts for half of all beer sales and 41% of sales of food and beverages labeled as such
  • 54% of all cereals are labeled as “whole grain” and cereals make up 40% of all foods described as such

Nielsen’s LabelTrends service tracks health and wellness claims for nearly every food product that passes through U.S. cash registers, including 55,000 items labeled “natural” and 21,000 items labeled “preservative-free.”