New Data from USDA’s Economic Research Service shows foods labeled “natural” accounted for slightly more than 16 percent of consumer retail food purchases in 2018.
USDA and the Food and Drug Administration require producers to adhere to specific standards or processes to use certain label claims, such as USDA Organic. The “natural” claim, however, has minimal requirements and using the claim on a food product’s packaging does not require that the product provide any health or environmental benefits. Regulatory agencies treat the claim as meaning nothing artificial was added, and the product was minimally processed. Even so, consumers sometimes attribute benefits to products labeled “natural,” research studies show.
The share of products labeled “natural” varies by food category. The share of spending on “natural” products in 2018 was highest for dairy products, at 27.7 percent, and lowest for fruits and vegetables, at 5.9 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively.