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Don’t make assumptions on the price of organic

Date Published: 21/10/2010

It’s a constant battle to communicate to shoppers why they should buy organic products.

Part of this is due to almost having an embarrassment of messages – animal welfare, controlled inputs, no GMs, etc, etc. It’s hard to narrow down what’s most important to people. And even if you do that, communicating it effectively is no mean feat.

It’s something we’ve focused on a lot, not least at our recent conference (read the report by Natural Products magazine on that here) and some great minds are now being applied to the issue.

Research informs much of the direction we’re going, so it was with interest we came across research by YouGov which said that the reason given by 58 per cent of shoppers they surveyed for not buying organic was that it was too expensive. That’s a fairly straightforward response to understand.

Unfortunately, in many cases it’s wrong! Huw Bowles, of OMSCo and the Organic Trade Board, highlighted this at our conference, demonstrating how organic products variants were often cheaper than branded goods. In fact, he’s also taken this up with a letter to The Grocer magazine.

The second most quoted reason in this survey was ‘I don’t think it’s any better than non-organic food’. That was from 25 per cent of respondents.  This brings us full circle back to the selling points and raises the question, what is it about organic food that they don’t think is ‘any better’?

If those respondents understood what organic offers, surely there is something about it that would appeal to them, be it animal welfare or the methods of production? Or are they merely talking about quality? If so, we need to work to get past that notion. Organic food won’t always be discernibly ‘better’ quality, but if they knew that it hadn’t been responsible for soil depletion, or that the animal had ranged outdoors, or that no herbicides had been used, would they think differently?

Progress is being made. As an industry we’re getting better at positioning products in the market and not just relying on people buying because it says organic on the label. If you’ve had chance to read the Natural Products piece linked above you’ll see that this was all addressed forcibly at the conference.

And we’re not on the back foot in the way that some people assume. Waitrose Managing Director, Mark Price, is quoted here in Marketing Magazine saying that organic sales are going back up after a dip. Tesco’s Alain Guilpain was also at pains during our conference to stress that their stores are actively ranging organic products, not least because they attract the higher spending customers.

So rather than hanging our heads when we see figures such as those YouGov has unearthed, we need to take that valuable information and use it to drive us on to better things, done in better ways.

And there are few better examples of that happening at the moment than the stroke of genius from Yeo Valley that is its ‘Yo Valley’ rap advert which became one of the most watched music videos on the planet last week!

Yeo Valley advert on YouTube