Still looking for organic?
Roger Mortlock - 02 October 2012
Over 90% of people who have responded to our online shopping survey so far said they would buy more organic food if only it were available. It seems that we are constantly being told that demand for organic food is declining. Yet the initial results from our survey are telling a very different story. Lack of availability is becoming increasingly frustrating for people who want to choose organic and we know most organic consumers are unable to find the full range of organic products they want to buy during their regular shop. That’s why we’ve extended the survey beyond Organic September to try and get a fuller picture of this unmet organic demand. So if you haven’t had the chance then let us know your experiences of finding organic in store, please let us know before the end of October.
The dip in the UK organic market is a very British phenomenon. Most of our European neighbours are experiencing strong growth in organic sales. As this year’s Soil Association Organic Market Report shows, one of the main causes of the UK market decline was a 5% drop in supermarket sales. Sure, this is partly driven by another challenging year on the high street, but we also know that it was due to continuing cuts by nearly all the retailers in their organic ranges and the shelf space devoted to organic food, reducing choice and availability. In less than three years some supermarkets have gone from positive ‘choice editing’ (offering only organic options on some lines) to choice denial, offering no organic options at all in many categories.
Reducing choice is not the only factor. Lack of investment in own-label organic ranges and organic marketing are also having an impact. Supermarket own-label sales dropped by 9.5% last year but organic brands who have invested in telling the public about why their food is different dropped by only 2.9% in comparison and have been in growth since the beginning of 2012.
It doesn’t have to be like this. Last year Peter Melchett and I visited Carrefour’s headquarters in Paris (the world’s second largest retailer) where they are proud of their commitment to seeking a wider, more democratic, market for organic food that is based less on the idea of a ‘premium’ range, more on the idea of everyday, natural food with health and environmental benefits that echo the values of Carrefour. Organic was at the heart of their sustainability policy and increasing range and availability were key ways in which they were measuring their success.
There are many areas where we need to work hard to change perceptions about organic and communicate better the principles behind organic production. But there’s another key bit of the jigsaw. You also need to be able to buy it when you want it.
Roger Mortlock is Deputy Director of the Soil Association. His previous career - which included stints in education, public health and even a spell in the arts - could be described as eclectic; if 'eclectic' is latin for 'all over the place'. His defence is that the only thing that links it all together is a commitment to positive health and well-being; something right at the heart of the founding vision of the Soil Association. He works on campaigns, policy and our programmes, including chairing the Food for Life Partnership.
20 May 2013 11:32
for me if it is organic then is a good food.
06 November 2012 15:27
i wonder if the decline of organic sales in the supermarkets reflects the fact that many organic buyers have changed from buying labeled organic in the big chains to supporting local small organic farmers (buyig directly from farms), in order to stay away as much as possible from industrial organic.
Seven or eight years ago, i shopped at Tesco for organic food ingredients, but i have stopped going to any suprmarkets several years ago, and we eat only organic food. Our organic food ingredients come from local organic farms, farmers' markets, and organic box schemes!
Post a comment