The term ‘organic’ can mean different things to different people and in today’s society perceptions of organic food seem to have changed. Once about worthiness, integrity and good animal husbandry, organic food is now associated with high prices; it has almost become a euphemism for overcharging and it is this that is putting some people off buying organic produce. This isn’t to say that organic food is not still in demand. Sales of organic products are still high, despite the effects of the economic downturn, but the UK’s recession and unpredictable economy have seen problems hit the organic market and the food industry in general over the past few years.
The market for organic food is a small part of the overall food industry. Trends and changes that occur tend to happen within the industry as a whole – in general they do not impact solely upon the organic market. Sales of food have changed in the past year because consumers have altered their buying habits. They are tightening their belts and are constantly looking for value for money. This has ultimately had a knock on effect on the organic market, especially as the perceptions about organic food tend to mean people associate organic with high prices. These trends are set to continue because the prices of organic ingredients are constantly increasing, therefore forcing prices of organic products to rise. The increasing costs don’t only affect the consumers, however; they also have an impact on the food companies themselves. Price rises are difficult to deal with and some companies are unable to do this successfully. The increasing costs of ingredients and the reduced consumer spend on organic products mean that some businesses have to diversify and step away from organic products as they can no longer afford to make them. To stay in business they have to source cheaper alternatives. This is a risky game in the long run as it can be seen as a dilution of their organic credentials and in some circumstances may mean the companies relinquishing their organic certificates completely.
Not only has the changing perception of organic food affected sales, it has also
resulted in altered marketing of organic products. Companies that originally had the word ‘organic’ blazoned over their products in an effort to appeal to consumers appear to feel that this once unique and respected term is having the opposite effect in some cases. Food companies are less inclined to use the term organic as a marketing tool – it has almost become a secondary tag. Some organic producers have removed the word ‘organic’ in an effort to build a more open cross market brand. Trends over the past year have shown that organic food can now be sold as conventional but at the same price as organic. If the public don’t see the organic branding they do not make the automatic assumption of overcharging. All of this does not alter the underlying message of organic food.
The changing prices and marketing won’t stop all consumers from buying organic. If they want it they will find it, wherever it is sold. People do like to feel they are making a difference and have a choice. By purchasing organic food they are easing their conscience; not only is the food good for them, it has also been produced in more ethical ways. People are increasingly demanding this honesty and quality from food. They also like to feel connected to the producers in some way so if the organic food is grown locally or has a good story behind it, consumers are more compelled to make purchases.Simple produce
Another noticeable trend in the food industry is the increasing demand for simplicity. Consumers are opting for more simple produce in an attempt to revert back to the ‘good life’, which is also having an effect on spending habits. This means organic products such as fruit and vegetables and meat will still be popular. There is a risk that a lot of lines will come off the supermarket shelves because consumers are opting for the simplest and cheapest products. Sales of organic will be affected by this but hopefully won’t diminish. Organic food is about choice and the justification of quality. People are still concerned about the use of pesticides and animal welfare so if they want organic food they will buy it.
Organic food will also remain a popular choice to many because eating awareness, health and well being are important topics nowadays. People are becoming more health conscious so there is a growing demand for healthier products. Consumers are also demanding more food for those with intolerances, allergies and other dietary requirements. The food industry has seen a huge push towards specialist ‘free from’ foods and many food companies are catching on to this. Products now need to contain the buzzwords, such as gluten free, dairy free or wheat free and so forth.
The growing demand for healthier products is not only affecting the food industry, it is also having an impact on the beverage industry. Consumers want drinks with flavour but no sugar. This demand has spurred new laws to stop drinks companies from branding their products in erroneous ways and making misleading claims about the drinks’ ingredients. Demand for sugar filled drinks is wilting now as society wants more healthy options. Consumers are getting confused by the so-called ‘healthier’ products on the market so are demanding more honesty and integrity from the drinks that are out there.Who on earth
What On Earth’s organic pizzas remain popular products but now the company is diversifying into different types of pizza bases. Consumers are looking for healthier options so in turn the pizza bases are becoming healthier. Multigrain, spelt and wholewheat bases are popular with consumers. These options give more choice and some can cater for allergies and intolerances.
What On Earth has also witnessed an increasing interest in convenience food and ‘grab and go’ products. The company has seen that there has been an increased demand for burritos in particular, which has encouraged the company to move into this area of food production. Demand for quiches and pies has also risen, proving that consumers are going back to robust simplicity.
As a result What On Earth is planning to go ‘back to the future’. In 2012 the company will focus on simplicity. It will make simple but great products using modern day logistics.
What On Earth also owns Simply Nectar, a brand of award winning fruit juices and nectars. These drinks contain no additives, pesticides or refined sugars and have always been honest about this from the start. Simply Nectar is about simplicity and the natural taste of pure fruit without all the rubbish other soft drinks add in.
Jeremy Jaffé is co-founder of What On Earth, a London based organic food company which launched more than 13 years ago. The company started with just one organic pizza and now produces more than 500 organic products on both a retail and food service basis. New products are continually being developed in a bid to cater for the demands of an ever changing society. The company is proud to make organic products and continues to market the food as such.
For further information, visit: www.whatonearth.co.uk