GMOs are abuzz. Retail participation in the third annual Non-GMO Month reached an all-time high this October. And even though California’s Prop 37 did not pass the law for GMO labeling, it continues to score headlines. Around 6 million people or 48.5% voted YES, while 51.5% voted NO on November 6. Consumer awareness of the issues surrounding GMOs is quickly growing, and as the only third party non-GMO verification in North America, the Non- GMO Project Verified seal is gaining popularity.
According to SPINS, the leading information and service provider for the Natural and Specialty products industry, expansion of Non GMO verified products on shelf has resulted in $2.4 billion sales during the past 52 weeks - an 85% increase over the $1.3 billion the previous year. Given the surge in consumer choice at shelf, it’s not hard to believe the seal is now among the fastest growing label claims in the natural products industry. Today, the Non-GMO Project recognizes more than 6,000 products as meeting its best practice standards for GMO avoidance, many from well established brands such as Nature’s Path.
Categories known for GMO risk have seen the greatest activity from manufacturers seeking the consumer benefit of Non GMO verification for their products. Those categories include Chips, Pretzels and Snacks, Non Dairy Beverages and Cold Cereal. Those three categories combined now have Non GMO sales that exceed one billion dollars annually.
“Recent polls show that more than 90% of Americans want to know whether or not their food contains genetically engineered ingredients. Over the past year, there has been a swell in support for the ‘right to know’ movement for GMO labeling,” says Megan Westgate, Executive Director of the Non-GMO Project. “The Non-GMO Project has been a key proponent of the movement and provides an immediate solution to help shoppers make informed decisions and avoid GMOs.”
In addition to purchasing products touting the Non- GMO Verification seal, consumers are also turning to organics to avoid genetically modified ingredients. Though not a foolproof method as the USDA Organic Program does not require testing for GMOs, buying organic does ensure that those ingredients are not intentionally added to the products. Sales of organic products are up 12.2% over the most recent 52-week period versus the prior year, with the highest growth found in natural supermarkets (+15.8%).
“Time will tell what’s in store for the future of labeling,” says Mary Ellen Lynch, SPINS director of consumer insights. “The fact that consumers are fighting for their right to know at the polls shows the significance of the issue and how far it has progressed thanks to organizations like the Non-GMO Project. It’s more important than ever for each of us to take action in support of a safe food supply.”
While natural supermarkets lead in terms of organic product sales growth, it is Specialty Gourmet retailers that are seeing the strongest consumer response to Non- GMO products (+23% versus +20% in Natural stores) over the past year. The high growth rates seen for products currently verified as Non GMO across both of these channels demonstrates the crossover in trends between the two and the issues resonating with both natural and specialty shoppers.