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The Boston Globe reports that the recession is having an impact on the sale of organic foods, and that “sales figures show that shoppers are having second thoughts about the value of organic foods, particularly fruits, vegetables and meats. But they're not giving up entirely on these products … Market research firm NPD Group said the number of people who reported buying organic products fell 4 percent in August, compared with a year earlier. While more than one in five surveyed in the latest figures available from NPD purchased organic products, the August data represented the first customer losses for the sector since February 2006 -- a decline that is expected to accelerate in the months ahead.”

One thing that is happening is that consumers are making choices depending on priorities – picking categories and products that they feel are worth splurging on, with different consumers making different choices.

Another result of the changed environment is that organic producers are investing more than usual in promotions, coupons and advertising.

The extent of the recession’s impact depends on who you talk to. The Globe reports that “despite the challenges, the Organic Trade Association forecasts sales of organic foods will rise by 18 percent a year, on average, through 2010. The association expects its customer base to grow on the assumption that prices will drop and mainstream retailers will stock a wider variety of products … Organic sales – not including store brands or bulk sales -- were forecast to grow by 14 percent in 2008, compared with increases of 16 percent in 2007, 22 percent in 2006 and 21 percent in 2005, according to market research firm Mintel International.”

KC's View:
Even consumers of organic products are feeling the recession’s pinch, so it is entirely reasonable to expect sales not to grow as much as in the past.

It seems to me, though, that it is critical that organic retailers and manufacturers not lose sight of the fact that they are offering an alternative to traditional products, and not lose sight that they need to maintain a kind of purity in terms of how their products are made. Organic still has to mean organic – and cutting corners because of the recession will not be acceptable to consumers and will only hurt the industry in the long term.