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Marketing Professor Deciphers the Organic Food Industry

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 26, 2017) -- Health-conscious consumers are turning to organic foods more than ever before. In 2016, organic food sales totaled around $43 billion in the United States. That’s up 8.4 percent from the previous year and well above the .6 percent growth rate of the overall food market. In fact, nearly 5.3 percent of all food sold in the United States last year was organic.

Ioannis Kareklas
Kareklas (pictured above) is growing an organic banana tree in his office. (Photo by Mike Nolan)

But, is going organic really worth it?

Ioannis Kareklas, an assistant professor of marketing at the University at Albany, has co-edited a new book, along with Darrell Muehling of Washington State University, to discuss that question, among many others related to the production, consumption and promotion of organic foods.

The book is titled “Deciphering Organic Foods: A Comprehensive Guide to Organic Food Production, Consumption, and Promotion” and includes viewpoints for more than a dozen industry experts.

“We want this book to serve as a guide for scholars, practitioners, policy makers, and consumers to make more informed decisions about organic foods,” Kareklas said. “Our hope is to educate readers so they can better understand the commonly asked questions in this highly complex industry. For example, why do organic foods tend to be more expensive than conventional foods? Or, when is the price premium really justified?”

The book includes ten chapters and discusses a variety of topics related to the organic food industry and its consumers including environmental and health benefits, a comparison of conventional versus organic farming practices, promotional strategies, pricing disparities, labeling issues and market trends. There’s even a chapter dedicated to the emerging market of organic pet food.

Overall, Kareklas believes manufactures of organic food are trying to deliver healthier, sustainably-produced products. However, consumers still need to do their homework.

“It all begins with the labels,” Kareklas said. “Where is your food coming from? Is it an open pasture farm? Do they feed antibiotics to their cows or chickens? Consumers need to educate themselves. Even when purchasing organic food. It is important to ensure you’re making an informed decision.”

Another piece of advice? Whenever possible, buy food that is locally-produced.

“You don’t always have to pay for the organic label,” Kareklas said. “Let’s say you’re buying organic foods because you care about protecting the environment. Instead, you may be better off buying directly from a local farmer who you know is not cutting corners or spraying their produce."

At UAlbany, Kareklas’ research focuses on advertising effectiveness and public policy issues related to socially-beneficial behavior. His work has been featured by various national media outlets including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, New York Magazine, Forbes, Slate and NBC News.

You can learn more about Kareklas by viewing his University expert page.

“Deciphering Organic Foods” is available for purchase on Amazon or through Nova Science Publishers. Kareklas also recently published a paper titled “I Eat Organic for My Benefit and Yours,” which was among the top three most downloaded papers of the Journal of Advertising in 2014.

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