ORGANIC FOOD SALES GREW 22% IN 2006
CHICAGO — Organic food sales totaled nearly $17 billion in 2006, representing 3% of total retail sales of food and beverages in the United States, the Organic Trade Association announced here at the All Things Organic show, citing preliminary findings from their 2007 Manufacturer Survey. Conventional supermarkets accounted for approximately 31% of total organic food sales, while leading natural food supermarkets — such as Whole Foods, Wild Oats and Trader Joe's — accounted for 24%. Independent natural food stores netted 22% of organic sales. Organic dairy had a stellar year, growing 27%, while organic produce grew 7%. Otherwise, many of the industry's categories posted booming sales off of relatively small bases. Organic beef, for example, grew 13.5%; organic baby food grew 21.5%; organic personal care items grew 11%, with organic hair care products growing 17%; and organic women's apparel grew 28%. The final report, produced by Packaged Facts of Rockville, Md., is expected to be available in June 2007.
RESEARCH LOOKS AT OUTSOURCING FOOD PREP
BELLEVUE, Wash. — The Hartman Group is looking to find out why consumers outsource food preparation, and how they choose the venues they do at mealtimes. While there are lots of quantitative studies showing restaurant sales by channel and food-service sales — and consumer shifts, by type and purchase, including the increasing use of retailers' prepared foods departments — the research doesn't explain how the decisions are made, Hartman Group researchers said. They believe the “whys” are important in order to drive innovation and to make marketing decisions. “For instance, in some of our previous research on what we call ‘the fragmentation of the family meal,’ we found that when the choice was the supermarket, there was a ‘healthy aura’ around the decision,” said Laurie Demeritt, Hartman Group's president and chief operating officer. In other Hartman research, consumers have said eating out in a restaurant often presents a challenge if they're dieting. Among other things, the study will explore cultural occasions for outsourcing food preparation, the role of children in mealtime decisions and the importance of convenience and price.
TAINTED PET FOOD ALSO FED TO FARMED FISH
WASHINGTON — The repurposed, melamine-tainted pet food that led to a federal quarantine of 20 million U.S. chickens after killing thousands of U.S. pets in recent weeks has also been used at several U.S. aquaculture operations, officials from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture said last week. At press time, it was not clear whether any fish from these operations had entered the human food supply, but federal investigators visiting the aquaculture operations that had used the feed emphasized that the melamine content was diluted, and probably did not pose a risk to human health, regardless. Adding another wrinkle to the case, three Chinese chemical companies admitted last week that not only melamine, but also cyanuric acid — a swimming pool disinfectant — had likely been added to the tainted pet food; cyanuric acid and melamine combined may produce crystallization in animals' kidneys, according to scientists at the University of Guelph in Canada. U.S. officials last week began stating that the contaminated ingredient in the tainted feeds was likely not wheat gluten or rice protein, but adulterated wheat flour.
WAL-MART LATEST TO PULL TRANS FATS
BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Wal-Mart last week announced that the delis inside its Supercenters and Neighborhood Market grocery stores have stopped using partially hydrogenated oils for preparing fried foods, including chicken, catfish, corn dogs, french fries and hush puppies. Wal-Mart officials here said the chain has switched to trans fat-free cooking oils for those products, becoming the latest company to respond to growing consumer concern about trans fats and their impact on heart and circulatory health.