Try and find some hard numbers on the size of the organic industry. Most of what you’ll find are anecdotal claims about “fast growing” and “bigger share” and “sprouting sales” (ugh).
In fact, the only real source of organic sales data seems to be the Organic Trade Association. It bases its numbers on surveys of consumers, who apparently are supposed to remember how much they spent in the prior 12 months on organic products, BY CATEGORY.
Sound familiar? What other industry trade association sizes its market not by asking its member companies, but by surveying customers? Yep, our friends at the National Retail Federation.
In any case, while we were trawling for data, we came across this headline:
“Smaller But Better? Organic Tomatoes May Pack More Nutritional Punch”
The article, posted on NPR’s website (how appropo), opened with this:
“A new study published in the journal PLOS ONE finds that tomatoes grown on organic farms were about 40 percent smaller than conventionally grown tomatoes. The upside? They pack more of a nutritional punch. The researchers found the organic tomatoes had significantly higher levels of vitamin C, sugar and lycopene.”
Consider that Exhibit A for why the organic food industry has a definite near-term ceiling on “fast growth.”
All that chemistry misses the core wants and needs of U.S. consumers when it comes to food: volume. We eat by amount. For example, recipes will call for “two cups of diced tomatoes.” They won’t say “mix in the amount of diced tomatoes that will provide 25 mg of lycopene.”
If something looks too small to eat, then it is too small to eat. This whole thing is on par with the range anxiety we claimed in this post will hold back the electric vehicle industry (and that was almost a full year before The New York Times versus Tesla p&ssing match).
Indirectly, we might have finally found something truly useful that Big Data could do for Marketing. Rather than ask consumers to guess at what they bought last year at the grocery store, maybe Big Data can count all those small organic melons as they fly off the shelves.