In August, The New York Times ran an essay by Sam Tanenhaus that sought to sketch a comprehensive portrait of Millennials. Tanenhaus, who labeled Millennials monolithically as "Generation Nice," devoted some space to discussing the shopping habits of this bold new generation: They're drawn to socially-responsible companies, they're mindful eaters, and they adore all things organic, even the cotton in their clothing. Tanenhaus left one thing out, though: They're easy to manipulate.
To be labeled "organic" in the U.S., a product must comply with a set of environmentally-friendly standards laid out by the United States Department of Agriculture. For the purposes of a consumer, it's easiest to define organic produce by what it isn't: genetically engineered, grown in synthetic soil or with certain pesticides, or allowed to be in contact with "sewage sludge." Organic livestock adheres to similar guidelines, with the additional provision that antibiotics and growth hormones weren't given to the animals.
But, going beyond those basic restrictions, the term "organic" has developed a remarkably benevolent aura in the mind of the consumer. After surveying 300 shoppers who were, for the most part, under the age of 35, the consultancy BFG recently found that 70 percent purchased organic foods, even though only 20 percent actually had any confidence that they could define organic. More than half were "concerned, but confused" about the words used to classify their groceries. BFG's CEO, Kevin Meany, described these young shoppers to Fast Company thusly: "They desire honesty. They want to believe."