Karen Tyner, Senior Manager Prepared Consumer Foods, Bord Bia – Irish Food Board
More European consumers are buying organic products according to Katya Witham from Mintel at her ‘What's driving the European organic market, a consumer perspective?’ presentation given at Biofach earlier this year. Growing consumer concerns around food safety, the natural environment and human health are some of the key drivers of the increased demand for organic products in the key European markets of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Poland.
The European Union’s latest published figures, value the organic market in Europe at €33.5bn euro in 2016, which was an increase of 11.4% on the previous year. Consumers are still demonstrating their willingness to pay a higher price for organic food and drink products however the number of consumers who claim that putting an organic label on a product is just an excuse for companies to charge a higher prices is increasing in all key markets and is now as high as 39% in Germany, 40% in both France and Spain and 54% in Poland. Price is the primary barrier for organic food and drink buyers and this growing scepticism put an onus on organic producers to explain to their consumers the merits of organic to justify their price premium.
Price may be the main barrier, but free from ‘nasties’ is one of the biggest reasons why European consumers purchase organic products, who are looking for clean labels and the avoidance of artificial ingredients. 42% of Italian adults are buying organic food and drink products to avoid pesticides, chemicals and hormones in animal products and 50% of French consumers purchase organic to avoid artificial additives and preservatives.
Organic food and drink product enjoy a perceived health halo among European consumers, however as we see from the Bord Bia consumer lifestyle trends of supply chain laid bare in the responsible living trend and rediscovering natural in the health and wellness trend, consumers are becoming increasingly sceptical. Over half of organic buyers in the key European markets claim they need scientific evidence that organic food and drink products are healthier.
Organic credential are coming under closer scrutiny from an increasingly sophisticated consumer with 47% of German organic food and drink buyers saying that is not clear why some organic products cost more than non-organic products and 61% of Italian organic buyers, (aged 25-34) see very little difference in quality between organic and non-organic products.
Today’s consumers are becoming more sophisticated. Although health and nutrition remain important consideration for organic purchasers, today’s consumers expect organic brands to stand for more. Organic manufacturers should consider how they can continue to appeal to European buyers by ensuring their Organic claims are supported by a wider ethical positioning including free-from, animal welfare, vegan or better packaging rather than focusing solely on a clean label and health benefits.
Bord Bia - The Irish Food Board. (2019). Consumer Lifestyle Trends. Retrieved from https://www.bordbiaconsumerlifestyletrends.ie/trends/
European Parliament. (2018). The EU's organic food market: facts and rules (infographic). Retrieved from http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/headlines/society/20180404STO00909/the-eu-s-organic-food-market-facts-and-rules-infographic
Witham, K. (2019). What's driving the European organic market, a consumer perspective?. Presentation, BIOFACH Congress, Germany.