Use sustainability to boost organics, says analyst

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Organic monitor Sustainability

Organic food producers should focus on the sustainable profile of their products if they are to maintain consumer interest in a flagging market, say analysts.

According to Organic Monitor, UK sales of organic food fell 13 per cent last year, revealing a market lagging behind that of other European countries.

“The economic slowdown has reduced consumer spending power; organic food sales have been affected because of their price premium. Another factor is changing consumer behaviour. With growing interest in climate change, third world debt and ethical issues, consumers are demanding more from organic foods,”​ say the market researchers.

Some top-of-mind issues include ethical sourcing, low carbon emissions, low ecological footprints and production that supports indigenous communities.

“To these consumers, organic only meets part of a complex demand equation,”​ says Organic Monitor.

European organic market

This is also the case in the wider organic market, despite the fact that sales have remained stronger than in the UK. In 2008, the European market for organic food and drink was worth €17.4bn. The largest markets for organic foods are in Germany, France, Italy and the UK. However, the largest markets in terms of consumption per capita (or average spend) are Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden and Austria. Although final figures are not yet available, Organic Monitor told that it expects growth of 3-5 per cent in 2009.

“The global market for organic foods is undergoing a transition with pioneers adopting sustainability initiatives.”​ However, the growth of these initiatives has led to the proliferation of eco-labels on food, such as fair-trade, biodiversity and carbon footprint.​This, says Organic Monitor, can cause more confusion than benefits.

Eco-label confusion

“Whilst consumers are demanding products with low environmental and social impacts, the plethora of logos and symbols is creating consumer confusion. Consumers are unable to differentiate between the growing array of symbols and logos on food products.”

“Organic Monitor expects successful companies to be those who effectively communicate these sustainability values to consumers in the growing sea of eco-labels.”

Sustainability issues and the use of eco-labels in the food industry will be addressed next month at a Sustainable Foods Summit organised by Organic Monitor and due to take place in Amsterdam on June 10-11. More information can be found here​.

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