This week, the Food Tank Book of the Week series is taking a brief hiatus. The post below originally appeared on Forbes on July 17, 2013, and is reprinted here with permission from the author.
It all began back in 2008 when Jo-Ellen Pozner, an Assistant Professor in the Management of Organizations Group at University of California Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, saw an episode of Jon and Kate Plus 8.
The show depicted mother Kate Gosselin talking about how she only gave her kids organic lollipops. What could giving her kids organic lollipops mean to a mom, wondered Pozner.
Pozner and co-author Katarina Sikavica of Ludwig Maximilians University Munich, Germany decided to look into the perceptions people have about organics and why they buy them. Their report, released earlier this year, argues that the public has no idea why they are buying such products.
“I don’t know if consumers know what they care about,” says Pozner.
The study looked at the number of organic brands on the market, the acreage in organic production and the dollar value of organics, and concluded that it is impossible that the quickly increasing number of consumers know what they are getting. If they had understood the meaning of “organic,” the study concluded, there would be a larger public outcry for stricter organic standards.
“The rate of growth in the sector is too high for people to know what they are getting,” says Pozner. “People wanted something healthier and they created demand for “organic.” But they don’t know what the term meant, which led to a watered down definition of what is now considered ‘organic.’”
The 2013 Market Overview by the Natural Products Expo also finds that “organic” has bred confusion in the marketplace.