Mastering Organic Growth
Mastering Organic Growth The Wharton School

Respected Chicago consumer researcher IRI has teamed up with a specialty natural products researcher to split shoppers who prefer natural and organic products into seven colorful categories.

According to an October 2013 survey of the U.S. population, two shopper segments together account for about half of all natural and organic sales.

They are the "True Believers" and "Enlightened Environmentalists," according to the research. The former are health nuts, who believe in the benefits of natural products for themselves and their families. On average, they earn $65,000, are about 40 and have college degrees.

Enlightened Environmentalists care about protecting the environment. They are older than True Believers, averaging 63 years of age and income of $57,000. But they’re better educated: Many have attended graduate school.

These are the obvious types of consumers who opt for organic produce and food, of course. But retailers and supermarkets better pay attention, since the organic grocery space is set for dramatic growth in an otherwise uninspiring industry. Organic chain Sprouts Farmers Market Inc. (NASDAQ:SFM) enjoyed a blockbuster $344 million IPO in August.

Still, the other five segments of occasional organic shoppers provides much-needed color and differentiation in an audience which is sometimes stereotyped. These segments include the poorer "Strapped Seekers," the older "Traditionalists," and the "Resistant Non-Believers."

Here’s the researchers' description of the shopper segments:

Strapped Seekers – This group likes to try new things and live a healthy lifestyle, but knows they should make healthier choices than they do. With a median income of $45,000 and median age of 45, these shoppers represent all levels of education.

Healthy Realists – Being healthy and fit and making exercise a priority is important to these shoppers. They are often the first among their friends to try something new, but can have difficulty deciding whether to buy healthy or traditional products. Their average age is 39, they have attended college and earn a median income of $65,000.

Indifferent Traditionalists – Leading a simple life with few passions, they may try healthy products but do not consider themselves on the leading edge of change. With a median income of $46,000 that skews under $25,000, these shoppers are aged 65 on average and have a high school education.

Struggling Switchers – These shoppers are focused on staying within their budgets, have suffered during the last recession, but know they should be eating healthier and getting more exercise. With a median income of $56,000, they are aged 39 on average and attended all levels of school.

Resistant Non-believers – With very little desire to explore other options for things to buy, Resistant Non-believers stay loyal to the products they know. They have completed high school, have an average age of 52 and a median income of $48,000.

Surprisingly, these five very different segments make up 54 percent of natural and organic sales. Researcher IRI puts natural and organic product growth at about 12 percent higher in 2013 than in 2012.

Read the full press release here.