Organic food was once the bailiwick of only a handful of health food stores: a specialty item available to only a small niche market. Now it’s a multi-million dollar industry, and organic items are available everywhere from Walmart to your local convenience store. Increasingly, organic items are available in the workplace as demand continues to rise, but what is organic food, and what explains its rise in popularity?
The term organic refers to a set of agricultural processes used to produce the food in question. Most developed countries have regulations governing the practices that must be used in order for a food to be labeled organic. These regulations vary from country to country, but they generally ban pesticides and chemical fertilizers as well as processing that involves additives.
In the United States, the US Department of Agriculture certifies products as organic with a special label. Products can carry the USDA Organic seal if they are at least 95% organic. If they are at least 70% organic, they can carry a label that says “made with organic ingredients,” but they cannot carry the seal. Consumers looking to eat organic foods should make sure that foods carry this label; claims that a product is “all-natural” have no legal meaning and often serve to confuse consumers.
So why should you worry about organic labeling anyway? Researchers are still debating the nutritional benefits of organically grown food versus that which is conventionally grown. However, it is certain that eating more organic food reduces consumers’ exposure to the chemicals used in conventional agriculture. For this reason, more and more consumers are choosing organic food. According to a 2014 report, the US organic food market is expected to grow at a rate of 14% through 2018.
This trend is reflected in the workplace, where US Connect members continue to expand their organic offerings. Our Bistro to Go® marketplaces serve organic choices for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and for snacks. Millennials (people born between 1980 and 2000) are entering the workforce in ever greater numbers, and these young consumers are among the primary drivers of the expansion of the organic food market and one of the reasons US Connect makes sure to offer these options.