Organic Food

Organic Food Survey

Highlights: 2003 BC Organic Food Survey

Source: Synovate Research, 2003.

The organic food purchasing segment definitions are as follows:

  • Non-organic food purchasers – have not purchased any organic food in the past 12 months.
  • Light organic food purchasers – between 1% and 9% of their food purchases are organic.
  • Medium organic food purchasers – between 10% and 24% of their food purchases are organic.
  • Heavy organic food purchasers – 25% or more of their food purchases are organic. 

How much are shoppers buying?

  • In BC, 53% of all grocery shoppers have purchased some type of organic food in the past year, with organic food accounting for an average of 11% of all food purchases.
  • On average, one year from now, BC shoppers estimate that 17% of their total food purchases will be organic compared to 11%, currently.
  • Medium and heavy organic food purchasers will be purchasing an additional 10% in the following year.
  • Organic food purchasers buy organic produce at their primary grocery store, mainly Save-On-Foods, Safeway, the Real Canadian Superstore, and on Vancouver Island, Thrifty Foods.
  • Heavy organic purchasers tend to frequent farm markets for their organic produce.
  • The survey results are virtually duplicated in a recent poll of American grocery shoppers (54% of Americans have bought organic food in the past year). The survey was commissioned by Whole Foods.

Why are people buying organic?

  • Organic food purchasers buy organic primarily for health and nutritional reasons (e.g. the absence of chemicals) and taste.
  • Taste is particularly relevant to those who buy organic meat, poultry, dairy or eggs. Light organic purchasers are motivated by taste more than medium to heavy purchasers.
  • 61% of both current and prospective organic food purchasers agree that organic food is much healthier. 51% expect it to taste better than non-organic food.
  • Current and prospective organic purchasers define “certified organic” as food that has been grown, raised or made without chemicals, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, preservatives or hormones. 1 in 5 believe “certified organic” means that the food has been inspected or guaranteed to be organic.

Who is buying organics?

  • Organic food buyers are:
    • Younger (18-34 years old)
    • Have some type of post-secondary schooling
    • Have an above average household income
    • Living on Vancouver Island
    • Not living in the Thompson/Okanagan/Kootenay region
  • The organic food purchasing market of BC can be broken down as follows:
    • 17% are light organic purchasers
    • 19% are medium organic purchasers
    • 16% are heavy organic purchasers
    • 47% are non-organic purchasers (of which 5% are “prospective” purchasers)

What organics are people buying?

  • In order of frequency of purchase:
  • Fruits and vegetables
    Out of the last 5 shopping trips, an average of 1.4 trips included purchasing organic fruits and vegetables.
  • Dairy/eggs and grains/cereal products
    Are purchased an average of less than 1 out of 5 shopping trips.
  • Organic meats/poultry and packaged foods/prepared meals
    Are purchased less than once out of 5 trips.
  • Heavy organic food purchasers are more likely to buy all types of organic foods, with the level and volume of purchases decreasing across medium and light groups.


In total, 852 telephone interviews were conducted with BC adult grocery shoppers, aged 18 or older. The sample was stratified by region to ensure a population proportionate sample. As with all sample surveys, the results are subject to margins of error. The total results, with a sample size of 852 are accurate to +/-3% at the 95% level of confidence. When analyzing results from various sub-groups, such as by organic food purchasing groups, the margins of error increase as the sub-samples are smaller.

Chart One