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Research Shows 23% of U.S. Consumers Are Consistently Buying Organic Food & Holistic Health Products


March 28, 2005

New research shows U.S. health habits changing By SALLY BLODGETT SENTINEL CORRESPONDENT (Santa Cruz, California)

Are you a "Food Active" or an "Eat-drink-and-be-merry"?

According to new health and wellness research, that depends on a number of factors. For example, if you are conscientious about getting the highest nutritional value from the food and beverages you consume, then you probably belong to the 26 percent of the U.S. adult population termed "food actives" by the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI).

If, on the other hand, you regularly just eat the pie and forget about the cholesterol or trans-fats, then count yourself among the ranks of the "Eat-drink-and-be-merrys," who comprise 21 percent of the population.

So who makes up the other 53 percent? That would be the "Fence Sitters," the "Well Beings," and the "Magic Bullets."

"Consumer attitudes and behavior nationwide have shifted dramatically over the last decade," said Steve French, researcher and managing partner for the Natural Marketing Institute, which conducts research on health and wellness.

"Organic foods, vitamin/mineral and herbal supplements, as well as nutritionally fortified foods are now widely available and used by 60 percent of the U.S. adult population."

Last week, French presented the latest findings on consumer attitudes and behaviors at the Natural Products Expo in Anaheim, where thousands of manufacturers, retail buyers and health food enthusiasts gather annually.

According to French, the natural foods movement is no longer the domain of the crunchy granola types, and the numbers reflect this shift. Consumer spending on natural foods and nutritional supplements nationwide has skyrocketed from $55.1 billion in 2001 to $68 billion in 2004. Spending is projected to grow to $84 billion by 2007.

Organics and personal care products show double-digit growth, with Americans spending 18 percent more on organic foods and beverages in 2004 than the previous year and 14 percent more on natural lotions, creams, cosmetics, and shampoo products.

The top three reasons people say they use natural and organic products are to improve their appearance, to lose weight and to have more energy.

There is also a growing trend to use food and supplements to self-treat various health conditions, such as menopause, heartburn/acid reflux, high cholesterol, asthma and high blood pressure.

So with all this ingestion of natural and organic food and our growing national concern about healthy living, are we getting healthier? That depends on how you define health, according to Dr. Bruce Eisendorf, M.D., Santa Cruz Medical Foundation family physician,

"Besides diet and exercise, there is substantial research that reveals two other critical factors that powerfully affect our health and well-being, namely, our mind and emotions," said Eisendorf.

"In a culture of quick fixes, people tend to disregard or completely ignore the mind-body connection," he continued.

"This often happens to people when they get into a cycle of chronic pain which heightens their emotional distress, causing more anger, fear, or grief. Only about 10 percent are even willing to consider that the symptoms of pain might be exacerbated by, or even caused by, their physical symptoms."

Eisendorf, who also teaches classes in Mind-Body Medicine, recommends meditation because it allows people to slow down enough to become aware of their thoughts and feelings.

"Practices like meditation and mindfulness are really instrumental in helping people change the deep-seated emotional habits and mental states that contribute to a wide range of conditions, including back pain, muscle pain, asthma, allergies, high blood pressure, stomach and intestinal disorders, anxiety, depression and insomnia."

Bob Stahl, Ph.D., who directs Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Programs in Santa Cruz and throughout the San Francisco Bay area, agrees.

"Thoughts and emotions directly affect physiology. Recent neuroscience research has shown that the practice of mindfulness, which focuses on being fully aware of the present moment, positively affects the cardio-pulmonary system, causing breathing to normalize and blood pressure and heart rates to drop," he says.

Health attitudes and habits of U.S. adult population by segment

WELL BEINGS, 23 PERCENT: Consistently use organic and natural food, vitamin/mineral, herbal and homeopathic formulas to support, treat, and enhance personal and planetary health. Strong preference for environmental friendly products, such as toxic-free household cleaners, energy efficient appliances, and recyclable materials.

FOOD ACTIVES, 26 PERCENT: Attain health primarily through food, including both natural and organic food and beverages, along with fortified packaged goods. Believe supplements support health but are overwhelmed by choices. Prefer alternative health care to traditional medicine.

MAGIC BULLETS, 12 PERCENT: Focus on vitamins, minerals, herbs and Œmiracle foods¹ to support health, less concerned with nutritional value of food. Preoccupied with weight loss and discounts. Preference for self-treating using over-the-counter remedies.

FENCE SITTERS, 18 PERCENT: Neutral about the nutritional content of the food they eat. Little faith in the value of supplements. Price-sensitive when grocery shopping; splurge when they eat out. Seek RX prescriptions to fix health problems.

EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRYS, 21 PERCENT: Choose taste over nutritional or health value. Know they should eat healthier and take supplements but don¹t. Highly price sensitive. Preference for over-the-counter remedies followed by RX prescriptions to treat health conditions.

Source: NMI, 2005

Research conducted by the National Marketing Institute uses a combination of random sampling methodology and quantitative survey research that is projectable to the current U.S. population of 109 million adults across a panel of 64,000 consumers. More information can be found at:

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