What appeals about organic to Australians?

Posted by Isobel Drake on 4th August 2008

A consumer survey conducted by Organic Guide at Sydney’s Organic Expo has found that the reasons for choosing organic over conventional products has changed significantly to include climate change. A leading organic expert from the UK also suggested that consumer loyalty was stronger in the organic sector, which means they are prepared to pay more for organic goods.

“Organic farming, with its emphasis on closed nutrient cycles, biodiversity, and effective soil management, has the capacity to sequester carbon from the earth’s atmosphere and trap it in the soil as carbon,” claimed Gavin Robertson, Editor of Organic Guide. “While previously organic consumers focused on personal health benefits, today they’re focusing on broader global concerns.”

The survey looked at the reasons why consumers choose organic over conventional products. Concerns regarding genetically modified organisms, the processes of industrial farming, and having greater control over the products consumed remain important.

However, concerns about the environment, pollution and, in particular, global warming now play a significant role in consumer choice.

“Global warming is a factor in the cars we choose to drive, the energy we consume and increasingly, the food that we eat,” advised Robertson. “If Australian consumers at the Sydney Expo are anything to go by, then this would be a global trend.”

Meanwhile, the chair of the UK’s largest organic association and founder of iconic global brand Green & Blacks organic chocolate, Craig Sams, has given Australian industry insight into how to keep organic momentum climbing.

Data from the Australian Organic Market Report 2008 (the first local organic data available since 2004) revealed farm-gate organic sales in Australia have grown by 80% since 2004, with industry breaking through a $0.5B retail value mark for the first time. In comparison, organic food and drink sales in the UK market edged towards £2 billion (approx $AUD 4.2 billion) in 2006.

Mr Sams advised that differences between the development of the UK and Australia’s younger organic market could end up appearing at a retail level. “Growth in the UK was fundamentally assisted by intensely competitive initial uptake of independent organic brands by major retailers,” he said.

By comparison increased organic demand in Australia – where organic retailers now stock in excess of 500 lines – has occurred with many expanding ‘house-brand’ or generic organic retail lines.

Mr Sams says in the UK, independent labels worked for both parties because organic consumers were brand loyal and were likely to spend more in-store. “Retailers found consumers who purchased organic were more likely to select more food of a higher quality whether it was organic or not,” he reported.