business news in context, analysis with attitude

BusinessWeek has an interesting evaluation of the value of organic foods, attempting to ascertain whether they are worth the higher prices that consumers often have to pay for them.

With shoppers “willing to plunk down 10%, 20%, sometimes even 100% more, organic food sales hit $10 billion in 2003, up from $178 million in 1980,” the magazine reports. “Responding to the growing demand, mainstream grocers are stocking more organic produce, milk, baby food, and meats, while healthy-food chains such as Whole Foods have opened dozens of stores in the past five years.”

But the central question remains: is organic food worth the expense?

BusinessWeek writes: “Research has yet to prove an adverse health effect from consuming the low levels of pesticides commonly found in U.S. food. But for the most vulnerable groups -- children and pregnant women -- going organic whenever possible for fruits and vegetables that carry the heaviest pesticide load makes sense. For organic meat, poultry, eggs, and milk, the direct health benefit is less clear.”
KC's View:
The story suggests, and we agree, that for many people the decision to purchase organic foods may be as much political as nutritional. That’s not to denigrate the rationale, but just to suggest that choices sometimes can be multi-layered.

The question is how – or even whether - retailers can appeal to consumers’ political instincts, whatever they happen to be.