Here's why your organic shopping list continues to grow

by: Clark Howard Staff Updated:

Once you go organic, your quest for such foods becomes almost manic, resulting in more purchases of healthy GMO-free fare.

That’s the findings from a new study on healthy eating published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Researchers from the Aarhus University School of Business and Social Sciences in Denmark monitored the shopping habits of nearly 10,000 households for nearly two years. What they found was that people who bought a singular organic item (in this case, a carton of milk) nearly always entered the larger organic foods market – and stayed there.

“What’s interesting is that something is making the organic consumers stick to their guns. Something is making them stand fast,” said Professor John Thøgersen, with the Department of Management at Aarhus BSS, the website Science Daily reported.

Organic shopping tied to our perception of moral values, study says

Researchers still don’t know what is it exactly about organic foods that make shopping lists grow with such fare, but Thøgersen suggest that “if we include our knowledge from previous research in the area, we’re able to make an educated guess.”

Thøgersen, along with study co-authors Economics Professor Hans Jørn Juhl and PhD student Morten H.J. Fenger surmised that compiling an organic shopping list is connected to consumers’ need to display moral values.

RELATED: 27 food items Clark loves at ALDI

“It becomes a way in which we define ourselves,” Thøgersen said. “As a result, we build an identity around the notion of buying organic products, and we’re highly unlikely to suddenly change our moral values.”

Now, I know what you’re saying: Organic food is pretty expensive compared to other foods. Money expert Clark Howard has written about the fact that organic foods are poised to get cheaper as more big grocers join the burgeoning market.

The study shows that people usually enter the organic market via dairy products. Then a pattern is evident – next comes vegetables, then eggs and baking ingredients.

RELATED: How to shop at Whole Foods on a budget

“In connection with organic consumption, there has previously been talk of an ‘organic staircase’ in the sense that consumers are generally buying certain organic products before others,” Thøgersen said.

Clark says that “organic” is just one of many labels used by the grocery industry to market their foods.  Here are some labels you see all the time on grocery aisles.

Looking to get a bit healthier? Watch out for some of these labels:

1. “All Natural.” According to the USDA, products with the “All Natural” label can still contain a multitude of additives, hormones, genetically modified ingredients (GMOs), antibiotics, pesticides, and more.

2. Green Colors. Consumers believe that food product designed in predominantly green colors are healthier. Brands take advantage of this by using green colors and using words such as “natural,” or ‘healthy.” Don’t fall for it, read the label.

READ MORE: 5 label tricks that make you think you’re eating healthy

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