SHELTON, CONN. — Organic foods and beauty care items have yet to gain mainstream acceptance by American consumers, according to a recently released study by TABS Group, a market research and consulting firm.

"There is a significant gap between the hype and reality of consumer purchase behavior with regards to organic products," said Dr. Kurt Jetta, TABS group president and founder. "Less than 40% of adults claim to have purchased anything from the major organic categories in the last six months."

Organic fresh fruit had the highest purchase incidence at 27%, with organic fresh vegetables close behind at 26%. Organic dairy products, eggs and milk, were cited as purchased by 18% and 17% of U.S. adults, respectively. Frozen organic products – vegetables, fruit and ice cream – had low purchase levels at 5% to 6%.

The findings are consistent with trends his firm has been tracking in retailer sales data, Dr. Jetta said. "Very few of these products have meaningful sales levels in traditional mass-market retailers, even the ones that are very strong in the natural food and specialty channels," he added.

"Meat was not included in the study, but I would infer that organic penetration for meat and poultry is no higher than milk or eggs," Dr. Jetta told MEATPOULTRY.COM. "The household penetration and purchase frequency on meat/poultry is about the same as milk/eggs and meat/poultry usage is higher in Middle America, where organic usage is much lower than on the East and West Coasts."

Although a few retailers have had success with organic products, most of the ones that have invested heavily in this trend will see a poor return on that investment, Dr. Jetta warns. "Most of the sales growth in these channels has been driven by increased selection of organic products rather than any inherent growth in consumer appeal," he added.

In addressing the future of organic meat and poultry, Dr. Jetta said, "The evidence suggests that there will only be marginal growth in organic across all categories. Our research suggests that many consumers don’t fully understand organic, and the ones that do don’t see a benefit from organic, particularly at a substantial premium."