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USA: millennials and organic – a winning combination
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In North America the so called-generation of millennials is adopting organic in a big way: on the farm and on the internet, in the kitchen and in the board room. An article in the Organic Report magazine (the official magazine of the Organic Trade Association OTA) explains the demographics of organic, the motivation driving the industry and its future prospects.
Millennials change the landscape of the food industry
The article takes the example of 32-year-old Carolina King and her toddler daughter Camila who even at an early age is always on the lookout for organic. Camila has acquired her early knowledge of organic from her mother, who has been feeding her and her younger sister organic since they were born.
King is a typical millennial: the new and powerful face of organic, well informed, motivated, connected, seeking a healthier lifestyle for herself and her family, and one of a population in the US of almost 75 million people in the 19 – 35 age range, the largest generation in the country.
This confident and internet-savvy generation is now coming into its own. Millennials are expected to make up half the U.S. workforce by 2020, and their purchasing power is climbing fast. Millennials are ethnically and culturally diverse, and are on track to be the most educated generation. They’ve grown up learning and sharing information on the internet. They are aware of the increasing health and environmental challenges posed by conventional agriculture, and are seeing organic as the healthy alternative.
Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association says that millennials are changing the landscape of the food industry. She sees millennial parents choosing organic because they are more aware of the benefits, they place a greater value on knowing how their food was grown and produced, and they are deeply committed to supporting a food system that sustains and nurtures the environment.
Biggest group of organic buyers in America
Various surveys have found that more millennials are buying organic products than any other generation. Millennial-aged parents are now the biggest group of organic buyers in America, according to a survey on the organic buying habits of American households released in 2016 by the OTA. Among U.S. parents, the survey found that more than 52 percent of organic buyers are millennials. Compared to millennials, Generation X parents (born between 1965-1980) made up 35 percent of parents choosing organic and baby boomers (born between 1946-1964) just 14 percent.
A study conducted in late 2016 by the Pew Research Center found that more than 61 percent of U.S. millennials say organic produce is healthier than non-organic varieties, the most of any generational group.
The millennial population is expected to peak in another 20 years at around 81 million. As this generation ages, becomes more prosperous, creates new careers in line with its values, and flexes its voting muscle, the millennial influence on the food and agriculture system will only grow. Millennials and organic—a winning combination that is here to stay, and that is changing the landscape for future generations.
Beyond the consumer
Millennials aren’t just enthusiastic consumers of organic. They are making their presence felt in the entire organic supply chain. Millennials are becoming organic farmers, organic researchers, organic entrepreneurs. There is plenty of opportunity in organic because you can enter the organic supply chain at any point and you don’t have to be a large-scale operator or an established farmer to get into organic.
It’s well known that America’s farmers are ageing. Farmers older than 65 are the fastest-growing group of farmers in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But younger farmers ages 25 to 34 are the second fastest-growing segment. On a national basis, the proportion of young farmers under 35 is up by almost 3 percent, and that proportion— especially for organic farmers—is much higher in regions where land values are lower and organic farming is more prevalent, or in non-traditional farming areas such as urban locations where small-scale or high-tech organic farming is beginning to take hold. The future is bright for millennials and organic farming.