Demand for organic foods continues to outpace other segments of the U.S. grocery industry.
Whole Foods Market – a natural and specialty foods giant whose stock is valued at $18 billion – reported second-quarter profits of $117 million.
Consumers pay hefty premiums for organic goods for a variety of reasons including perceptions that the natural foods offer superior nutritional benefits.
But a study released this week by a leading research institution in the heart of Silicon Valley indicated organic foods may not be much healthier than their conventional cousins.
A Stanford University study comparing organically produced food to its non-organic counterpart, revealed no nutritional difference between the two.
While the study indicated nutritionally an apple is an apple regardless of how it’s grown, other findings support notions that organic produce is indeed healthier. According to Stanford researchers 38 percent of the conventional produce tested contained detectable pesticide residues. Only 7 percent of the organic produce tested showed contamination from pesticides.
A 2010 Nielsen study found 76 percent of consumers who purchased organically grown produce did it because they believed it was healthier, 53 percent believed that organic produce would help them avoid pesticides and other toxins, 51 percent believed it to be more nutritious and 49 percent believed organic farming was better for the environment.
The Stanford researchers drew their conclusions from previous studies comparing organic to conventionally produced foods. The analysis of 237 studies took researchers 4 years to complete and was done without outside funding to avoid compromising the findings.
The Organic trade Association reports despite costing significantly more, sales of organically grown foods increased from 1-billion dollars in 1990, to over 26 billion dollars in 2010. And, according to USDA, the retail value of the organic industry grew almost 9.5% in 2011 to $31.4 billion.
Organic foods continue to gain market share in the food industry, climbing to 4.2% of U.S. retail food sales in 2010.