Shoppers say they favor organic and U.S.-grown foods

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.—According to recently released survey findings of a Tennessee-based advertising and marketing agency, American consumers shop more often for food with labels that read "natural," "organic" or "grown in the USA."

"This looks baffling on the surface, because we Americans like our bananas, oranges and strawberries year-round. We’re used to eating fresh fruits and vegetables grown out of season, including some that can't even be grown in the U.S.," said Suzanne Shelton, president of Shelton Group.

She said the popularity of "organic" and "grown in the USA" food labels reflects concern about food contamination, support for family farms and apprehension about the economy. Buying locally grown and U.S.-grown food is viewed as "a way to help fellow Americans."

The annual survey found that 25 percent of Americans said that the best description on a food label is "100 percent natural" or "all natural." Twenty-four percent said the best label is "USDA Certified Organic," while 17 percent preferred "grown in the USA."

"Consumers are more label-savvy than ever when it comes to food shopping," said Tony Banks, assistant director of commodity marketing for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. "For those who are interested in organic food, pay attention to where the label says it was grown; it could be an organically-grown import."

Banks also noted that specific food labels, especially on produce, can allow shoppers to support their local farmers. Virginians can look for "Virginia’s Finest" and "Virginia Grown" labels and store signage if they prefer to buy foods grown or processed in the state.

"Some grocers also have signs advertising food grown and processed locally, so that’s something to look for when shopping," Banks said. "Such food can often also be found at farmers’ markets, but just because food is sold there doesn’t necessarily make it local. The most important thing is to always read the label or ask questions."

Contact Banks at 804-290-1114.

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