There is a steady, ongoing increase in the number of products identified as non-GMO in the U.S. market. This is taking place in both the retail market and in foodservice. Driving the market is an expanding consumer desire to have healthier foods with fewer added ingredients or any aspects that are not "natural."
In the report, Non-GMO Foods: U.S. and Global Market Perspective, 2nd Edition, market research publisher Packaged Facts estimates that retail sales of foods and beverages identified as non-GMO were approximately $200 billion in 2014. This represented about a quarter of all retail food and beverage sales for that year. Looking ahead, Packaged Facts projects that non-GMO food and beverage retail sales will reach $330 billion by 2019, an increase of 65%. In that same period, retail sales of all food and beverages will only grow by 13%. Market growth continues largely unabated despite lingering consumer skepticism, in addition to assertions by the U.S. government and international bodies such as the World Health Organization that GMOs are indeed safe.
Beyond the debate surrounding the healthfulness of non-GMO foods is a quiet tug of war between the market for non-GMO foods and the market for organic foods. In many respects, the non-GMO market has piggybacked on the demand for organic and natural products. Organic and natural foods accounted for an estimated 60% of all non-GMO retail sales in 2014. Packaged Facts projects that this share will increase to about three-fourths of overall non-GMO retail sales by 2019.
But as some organic companies and farmers attest, while organic foods are non-GMO, not all non-GMO foods are organic. The frustration arises largely because of the hefty investments necessary to meet federal government organic standards and to obtain organic certification, yet grocery store sales of less heavily regulated non-GMO products are outpacing sales of foods labeled organic. Rather than being government regulated, non-GMO certification is awarded by private groups such as the Non-GMO Project, which tests to make sure GMOs aren't mixed into ingredients during production or transportation but doesn't prohibit the use of synthetic pesticides on crops used as ingredients.