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Study: U.S. Organic Has Work to do Abroad on Trust

As part of Organic Trade Association’s partnership with Edelman to study organic trust among consumers in the United States, Edelman used its global reach to survey trust among consumers in five key export markets for U.S. organic producers: France, Germany, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. The findings from this Organic Trust Barometer are critical in maximizing existing lucrative trade opportunities for U.S. brands, and will provide important background as we pursue updated equivalence arrangements with important trading partners. Particularly, these findings will inform the trade association’s ongoing consumer promotion efforts in these foreign markets, enabling our messaging to better resonate with consumers.

For U.S. exporters marketing products overseas, these findings provide equally valuable insights into consumer understanding of organic in these foreign markets, especially in comparison to their locally regulated organic products. It should not come as a surprise that consumers in all markets (with the exception of the U.A.E) have a higher degree of trust in their domestic organic seal; however, trust in the USDA seal was also fairly strong in these international markets.

Noticeably, trust in the USDA organic program was lower in France, Germany, and Japan throughout the survey responses. Certainly, there is cultural precedent for these results. While trust in local food systems tends to be higher than in imported products in many countries, the EU maintains a particularly strong preference for local production, now emphasized in the Farm to Fork Strategy and Organic Action Plan. Additionally, strong negative perceptions among EU consumers surrounding U.S. conventional agriculture and factory farming have spilled into perceptions of U.S. organic goods as well. Moving forward, U.S. organic products will do well to position themselves as the safest and most highly regulated food system in the United States.

For Japanese consumers, when asked about whether information on organic standards was accessible and easy to understand, the responses were surprisingly low relative to all other foreign countries surveyed. Organic Trade Association has sought to fill this gap through working with a Japanese PR agency over the last couple of years. In partnership with this firm, OTA has sponsored retail promotions of U.S. organic products in local retail outlets of various sizes, as well as ongoing social media promotions of U.S organic items. Visit OTA’s Japanese language Instagram page to check out the results: https://www.instagram.com/organictradejapan.

There is work to do for the USDA organic label to be consumers’ preference overseas, however there is an opportunity for industry to establish a go-to source for information. These strategic implications will inform the ongoing efforts of the trade association to promote USDA-certified organic products overseas, and continue to strengthen the image of USDA-certified organic products abroad.

Alexis Carey is OTA’s outgoing Associate Director of International Trade. Read more about her on page 28 of the digital magazine.

This article was originally published in the Fall 2022 Organic Report, you can view the full magazine here.