So your LEED-certified pizzeria carries all local ingredients from farms and suppliers that are USDA certified organic. How do make your green claims resonate with everyday people? 
 
Call it "natural."
 
That may be counterintuitive, since organic is the only government-regulated "green" term. But the general public finds the word gimmicky. That's according to the most recent "Eco Pulse 2010" survey by Shelton Group. Every year, the Knoxville, Tenn.-based ad agency polls a representative sample of 1,000 people via online surveys, then follows up with focus groups to determine consumer perceptions of green products, from household items to food.
 
Some key results for the restaurant industry include people's affinity for the term "100 percent natural" to convey a "green" food product. Ranked far below that is the phrase "certified organic ingredients," a descriptor regulated by the USDA. 
 
"Organic comes off to consumers -- particularly middle-income and below – like a fancy marketing term invented to charge them more money," said Suzanne Shelton, president of Shelton Group. "'Natural' sounds more reasonable to them, even though organic might be the better choice (for their wants)."
 
In fact, Shelton said, in some focus groups, people are more likely to be swayed by an endorsement by the American Heart Association than even the practical descriptors of "lower salt" or "made with recycled packaging."
 
Other findings revealed that women are still more likely to seek out 'green' foods than men. And minorities are demanding them more.
 
"Minorities should not be discounted," said Shelton. "Year over year we see Latinos and Hispanics more interested (in green products)."
 
But don't expect big families to be the biggest clients for green restaurant experiences. The report also found that those with no children were significantly more likely to be looking for greener food and beverage products.

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