New findings from Nielsen, New York, released by the Organic Trade Association (OTA), Washington, D.C., show things have changed in the kitchens of American households across the country, from small towns to the big cities. That’s because organic can now be found on the shelves of kitchen cupboards and in the refrigerators of 82.3% of American households.

In the first comprehensive look at organic purchases by households on a state-by-state level, the study of 100,000 households conducted in 2015 and 2016 reported that more households than ever bought organic food on a regular basis throughout 2016. The national average climbed 3.4% from 2015 to 82.3%, while in Georgia, the number of households buying organic rose by a solid 4% to 81.5%. The state showing the biggest jump in households purchasing organic was North Dakota, where 85.6% of households participating in the Nielsen study reported buying organic in 2016, up a robust 14.2% from 2015.

"These new findings show how important organic has become to millions and millions of American families everywhere – to more than 80% of our nation's 117 million households, more than 80% of Georgia's 3.5 million households, more than 85% of North Dakota's almost 300,000 households," says Laura Batcha, executive director and CEO of OTA. "The organic community is looking forward to working with the new leadership at USDA. We are eager to show how important adequate funding is to support a strong organic program and to help organic to continue to become a part of healthy diets of households throughout our nation.” 

The Nielsen findings show a number of states in which 90% or more of households now buy organic on a regular basis, with even the lowest levels all hovering around 70%. The Top 5 states experiencing the biggest increases in households reporting organic purchases were:
North Dakota, where 85.6% of households participating bought organic in 2016, up 14.2% from 2015;

  • Rhode Island, with 88.3% buying organic, up 12.3% from 2015;
  • Wyoming, where 90% of participating households bought organic in 2016, up 10.8%;
  • South Dakota, which had the lowest percentage of any state at 68.9%, but still recorded a 10% increase;
  • Wisconsin, where 77.6% of participating households bought organic, up 9.1% from 2015.

"Organic provides a healthy choice for consumers everywhere and a profitable choice for farmers," says Batcha. "The industry relies on a few critical public institutions to support this burgeoning industry, including the National Organic Program for global oversight and uniform standards and research investment targeted to organic production. Organic is fueled by consumers, and it thrives when USDA recognizes the importance of organic to rural economies and to rural households."

In Georgia, a partnership between the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the non-profit group Georgia Organics, Atlanta, Ga., shows how investment into helping farmers wanting to go organic can make a difference.

"Georgia is becoming a bigger player in meeting the growing consumer demand for organics, thanks to innovative farmers, entrepreneurs and excellent partners," says Alice Rolls, executive director of Georgia Organics. "Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black has partnered with Georgia Organics on our 200 Organic Farms campaign to double the number of organic farms by 2020. His relationship with Sonny Perdue no doubt will be influential on a number of fronts, including organic agriculture."

The Nielsen data comes from 100,000 participating households in the 48 contiguous states that are geographically and demographically diverse to represent the national population. Participating households record with a home scanner all food purchases for in-home consumption from any retail outlet, including organic items. Participants scan the universal product codes to track their purchases.