Even in today's dicey economy, sales of natural and green products — incredibly — show no sign of slowing down, according to Mintel, a leading market-research company based in London. A survey titled “Green Living” revealed that 36 percent of participants regularly purchase green products — up from 12 percent in 2006.

With consumer health concerns driving the trend, it's hardly surprising that organic and natural foods make up “the best-established segment of the green marketplace.” Survey respondents also indicated that environmental concerns motivated them to purchase eco-friendly alcohol and wine, as well as natural household and personal care products.

“We saw that there is greater knowledge about pollutants in the environment, along with huge increases in asthma and cancers,” says Colleen Ryan, senior analyst at Mintel. “So there are a lot of good reasons why people are concerned about lowering their exposure.”

Regardless of the widespread anxiety about health and environmental toxins, not everyone is on the eco-bandwagon. Although many survey respondents said they would purchase natural or organic if such alternatives were available through mainstream outlets, most consumers are not willing to “go out of their way to find green products.” In addition, most respondents said they were reluctant to pay more than 10 percent extra for green products.

“The number of people who are committed to shopping green is still small,” says Ryan. “Most consumers see their options as what's in the supermarket. Some either aren't aware that alternatives exist, or they might not think to look in the natural products aisle for dishwashing soap.”

QUICK TIP

If you're thinking about investing in businesses, eco-categories might be good ones to explore — analysts say their growth potential is huge.

Visit our very own Green Living Archive