WASHINGTON (UPI)--The number of organic food products purchased by consumers in the United States rose by more than 25% last year.

The Food Marketing Institute noted in a recent study of shopping trends the organic industry went from an average of $6 billion in revenue during 1999 to $7.8 billion in 2000.

"Supermarkets have seen a steady rise in consumers seeking to achieve better nutrition and overall health," said Janice Jones, a research director for the institute.

"Many consumers see organic products as being the most natural food available in the stores and thus we have seen a sharp increase in their popularity," Jones said.

"While most used to view organic shoppers as a small group who were considered more nature-conscious and earthy, we see that todays organic consumers comprise about one-third of all shoppers," she said, adding they "represent nearly half of all grocery shoppers in stores that carry organic products."

The study showed that organic shoppers rank quality fruits and vegetables as their most important factor (90%) in choosing a grocery store, while non-organic shoppers were most concerned (88%) with a clean and neat store.

Organic shoppers spent an average of $81 per week on groceries, and had higher annual incomes, as 35% earned more than $50,000 annually.

Also, 45% of organic shoppers were women who worked more than 20 hours per week, with 31% being between 25 and 39.

In a separate study, the Food Marketing Institute noted differences in grocery shopping trends between women who work full time and those who work part time or not at all.

Ninety-one percent of full-time working women were concerned about shopping in stores where ATM or debit cards were accepted, while women who worked less than 20 hours per week were more likely to be interested in a store that also included a pharmacy, video rentals, an in-store bakery or an eating area as additional services.

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