Transparency in organics to support growth
consumer curiosity about organic food and maintain demand, say
researchers, who claim shoppers are calling for more information
about quality, origins and authenticity, writes Lindsey
Consumers are moving away from 'faceless' foods, claims a team of UK researchers, advising retailers to make a better effort to provide stronger sourcing and supply information about the organic food products.
"Our earlier research found that many people buy organic because they want to avoid the current situation in mass food retail, where the majority of produce is anonymous," comments Dr Kirsten Brandt, at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.
They want to know where their food comes from and ideally the person who has produced it, not the "fairy tale" landscapes on packaging that may have little to do with the actual production situation.
If, as the retailer claims incessantly, product offerings are dictated by consumer demand then the retailers should open a dialogue up with the consumer on organic food, recommend the researchers.
In other words, a stronger communication channel could lead to stronger gains in organic food sales.
"Retailers can then look at finding cost-effective solutions to fulfil some of the consumer's wishes. This could involve building a stronger relationship with one or two suppliers and revising their packaging to reflect this,"adds Dr. Brandt, one of the scientists leading the EU-funded organic HACCP project.
Organic food is taking off across Europe, driven by a multitude of reasons including environmental and food safety concerns, as well as a rejection of the ceaseless growth of mass food production.
Two years after the UK government, for example, launched an organic action plan for the entire food supply chain, the country has seen a 46 per cent rise in organic produce provided by UK farms.
At the beginning of 2004, about 4 per cent of UK farmland - 696,000 hectares - was under organic production, up from 30,000 hectares in 1993. The market is projected to grow by 9 per cent a year to 2007.
Overall, the EU organic market reached around €10 billion in 2002, according to data from UK market analysts Organic Monitor, but growth has slowed in recent years: an increase of 8 per cent between 2001 and 2002 shrunk to an estimated 5 per cent between 2002 and 2003.
According to the market researchers, dairy is one of the fastest growing organic categories, with 2004 sales up on the previous year by 12.5 per cent. Within the category, organic milk and yoghurt reported the highest levels of growth.
The introduction of organic dairy products under supermarket private labels has boosted sales growth, while future sales are tipped to be driven by scientific research into the health benefits of organic milk, and by a greater penetration into the foodservice and catering sector.