According to Mintel data, France was the most active country in Europe for organic new product development between 2012 and 2014, with over a quarter of product launches bearing an organic claim. Meanwhile, Euromonitor data shows that organic packaged food value sales in Italy rose 12.3% between 2010 and 2015.
But what is driving this growth? In an online post, Euromonitor analyst Dimitrios Dimakakos puts the dynamic organic food market in Italy down to the fact that Italian consumers are willing to pay extra for better quality food – such as organic.
“The main driving factors behind this growth have been product expansion and increasing demand for premium, high-priced products, as well as changing consumer habits towards food. Consumers in Italy have started focusing more on healthy food, prioritising quality over quantity, and preferring to buy less but more premium and natural food.”
Meanwhile, a recent French survey conducted by ANIA, France’s food industry association, questioned over 1000 consumers and found that 92% said food was an essential part of their lifestyle and 79% said they were willing to pay more for a higher quality product, while separate studies have shown that consumers equate organic with better quality and safety.
Focus on convenience
French consumers cite health and environmental reasons for buying organic, but Mintel analyst Patty Johnson says demographic changes mean convenience and quality will become increasingly important criteria for consumers. This means there is a lot of potential within the packaged organic food category.
“Culinary traditions are evolving in France, driven by longer working hours, more women working and growth in single-person households. It is unsurprising therefore that more than four in 10 consumers now claim to choose easy, quick to prepare food for weekday meals,” she says on the Mintel site.
“Organic chilled fruit and vegetable options targeting convenience seekers and snackers, such as bagged salads and ready-to steam packaged vegetables have not been fully explored in France. In order to move the organic sector forward French produce manufacturers should consider development of fresh chilled value-added organic produce.”
As in France, organic sales in Italy are currently being driven by fruit and vegetables, but the trend is also being seen in packaged food, says Dimakakos. And while this is moving from a lower base, the packaged food industry is taking note and responding with product launches. The highest growth rate is for organic pasta which saw a 27% increase over 2010-2015 while standard pasta fell by 1%. Organic rice, honey and cheese also experienced strong growth.
“The forecast for the organic food market in Italy seems very optimistic. As open food markets are becoming more popular, the packaged food industry is expected to respond quickly with more packaged organic food becoming available in modern grocery retailers," Dimakakos says.
"Organic milk and organic dried baby food are anticipated to be new protagonists, while organic honey will continue to register double-digit growth."
According to figures from Anabio, Italy’s organic farmers’ association, Italian consumers are willing to pay up to 15% more for organic.