More consumers are buying organic products than ever before, and the trend promises to continue well into the future, retailers say. “It’s definitely growing,” said Ken Zylstra, store director at Family Fare, 1185 S. Washington Ave. in Holland, which offers more than 900 organic products.
Zylstra said sales of Full Circle products — Spartan’s private-label organic line — have grown about 20 percent annually over the last decade at his store, with organic produce sales jumping 35 percent over the last year.
Anita Buell, manager at Apple Valley Natural Foods, 3013 West Shore Drive in Holland Township, said she’s seen significant growth in organic food consumption over the past 17 years.
“At first, it was just the natural foods. Now, it has grown into a huge organic foods market, where people are looking for foods grown without chemicals and pesticides,” she said.
According to USDA standards, “100 percent organic” may be printed on a package label if the product contains 100 percent organic ingredients. “Organic” may be used if a product contains 95 percent organic ingredients. Each may also display the “USDA Organic” seal.
Foods labeled “natural” are those that do not contain any additional, artificial additives; natural foods, however, may be grown using pesticides and other chemicals.
At Nature’s Market, 1013 S. Washington Ave. in Holland, an independent local grocery featuring organic and natural foods and products, business has never been better, according to owners Theresa Hoerig and Diane Slayer.
The store, after a decade of 20 percent annual sales increases, is expanding, they said. Plans include a bulk-foods section, increased cooler and freezer space, and a new cafe.
Mary Mason of Saugatuck said she tries to buy organic and support local farms as much as possible.
“I think it’s better for us,” she said, as she picked up some granola, catsup and bleu cheese dressing from the organic food aisle at Family Fare Monday. “It’s better for the land, better for the farmers.”
An organic food consumer for the past decade, Mason said she doesn’t mind spending a little more for organic goods.
“It might be a little more, but it’s not bad. And, it’s guilt-free,” she said.
The health benefits of eating organic are still debated.
“What we do know for sure, simply based on growing practices and organic standards, is that organic foods do contain fewer chemicals, pesticides and additives than conventionally grown foods,” said Heather Winia, a certified holistic health counselor in Zeeland.