Here’s the thing about fruits and vegetables: Everyone knows they’re healthy, and we all know we should be eating more of them. But more and more, it’s not just whether we’re consuming enough produce, but whether we’re eating the right kind of produce. In a word, organic. And it’s not just fruits and vegetables — people are searching for organic meat, poultry, and milk as well.
As a result, sales of organic food in the U.S totaled $43 billion in 2016, according to the Organic Trade Association. That’s more than eight-percent growth over the year prior (in comparison, the overall food market saw a 0.6 percent growth).
For the first time, organic food accounts for more than five percent of total food sales in the U.S. Not only that, but nearly 14 percent of all fruits and vegetables and eight percent of all dairy products bought in the U.S are organic. And three out of four grocery stores nationwide stock organics, signaling a shift from the fringe to the mainstream.
While people want organic food more and more, there are still some issues that keep organic from going totally mainstream — like cost.
A study by Consumer Reports found that, on average, organic foods are 47 percent more expensive than their conventional counterparts. However, Consumer Reports notes, the “range was huge.” While some organic items were significantly more expensive, in other cases, they were less costly than conventional foods.
So where does this leave you? If you recently opened a restaurant, perhaps you’re not sure if your customers are even interested in organic foods. Or maybe you want to offer organic, but the cost seems exorbitant and significant impact your restuarant costs.
The first place to start is by identifying whether your customers have an appetite (quite literally) for organic foods. You might try to ask your customers while they’re in your store. Or you could email your most loyal customers and ask them to take a survey about their preferences.
If a sample of your customers says that they would like more organic options — and you believe that offering these options will help attract and retain customers — the next thing to do is look at your budget and operating costs.
Analyze how a switch to organic ingredients would affect your bottom line. Whether you are a restaurant or a market, this might mean researching new vendors to find the best prices. If costs for organic ingredients are that much higher, you might look at adjusting prices or changing up your offerings.
Better yet, why not start small and do some pilot testing? Offer a sample of new organic products in your market or a new all-organic dish on your menu. Then see how well the new offering sells and how your customers react to it before you expand.
Regardless of how you decide to approach organic offerings, once you’ve implemented them, the most important thing to do is promote them.
If you own a market, prominently mark and display produce, and create a designated section for all your packaged foods to make it as easy as possible for your customers to go organic.
If you own a restaurant, highlight organic ingredients on your menu. Diners are sophisticated enough to understand that organic ingredients are typically more expensive, which will help explain any price changes. (Depending on your location and clientele, they might ask whether dishes are organic anyway, so this makes it easier on your servers.)
Outside of your store or restaurant, use your marketing channels — like email, social media, and your website — to talk about your new organic offerings. Any marketing you do will remind regular customers to come in and try your new fare. And it may tempt new customers (who search for organic offerings) to come in and find out what they’ve been missing.