Reuters A team of researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health has found that consumers are consuming organic foods at much higher rates than in other industrialized nations.
The researchers used data from more than 2,200 consumers in China and India and more than 3,000 in Brazil to examine how consumers in these countries were consuming organic food.
The results are published in the journal PLOS ONE.
“We found that organic food consumption in China was growing rapidly, with an annual growth rate of nearly 14 percent from 2012 to 2020,” lead author Dr. Shanti Prakash told Reuters Health by email.
“The trend is also accelerating in India, with a 10 percent growth rate in organic food sales between 2016 and 2020, as compared to just 4 percent growth in other countries,” he added.
“This rapid growth of organic food in India is an example of how rapidly consumers are turning to organic food to meet their nutritional needs, and our results show that organic foods are being sold at much greater levels than other countries in the world,” Dr. Prakay said.
He noted that the Chinese consumer is more aware of organic foods and more willing to pay a premium for them.
“There is a growing market for organic food products in China, and organic food consumers are purchasing them at much lower prices than the rest of the world’s consumers,” he said.
The researchers looked at organic fast food and packaged food brands and organic soft drinks, as well as organic vegetables, dairy products and fish and seafood.
They also looked at the price of organic meat, poultry, eggs, dairy and fruits, as measured by the price per pound, and compared the cost of organic products to that of traditional foods.
The study found that the average price of a serving of organic chicken or chicken and egg in China grew by 40 percent in the past decade, while in India the price increased by 28 percent.
While India’s growth in organic meat and poultry is similar to other Asian nations, China’s growth was higher, Dr. K.S. Pramanik, an organic food scientist at the University of California, Davis, told ReutersHealth by email, adding that the authors were surprised by China’s higher price per serving.
“If the price for chicken is only 50 cents per pound in China than the price in India might be 50 percent lower,” he explained.
“It is not that Chinese consumers are choosing organic chicken because it is cheaper, it is that they are choosing the cheapest food available in China,” he continued.
“However, India is one of the most populous countries in Asia and is also the world leader in organic and sustainable food production,” he noted.
“So, if you are an Indian, you may be looking at organic chicken at a price of $3 per pound.”
The researchers also found that Chinese and Indian consumers tend to buy less meat and produce less dairy products.
“I think that China is seeing a lot of pressure from other countries to adopt organic production, and this could be the tipping point for India,” Dr Prakar said.
“People in China are less willing to eat conventional foods, so it could be a tipping point,” he concluded.