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Almost a quarter of consumers now make a conscious effort to buy organic produce, according to recent research. The survey by Wren Kitchens revealed that searches for ‘organic fruit and veg near me’ have blossomed by 400% in the past 12 months as consumer seek our products that are better for them and the planet. This year, Brits have spent a whopping £2.79bn on organic produce, up from £2.28bn in 2019.
While many fine food retailers stock organic food and drink products, some retailers have dedicated themselves to the cause, providing only organic options for their customers. Planet Organic is one such retailer. “We are certified by the Soil Association, which means we are able to sell loose organic products – fruit, vegetables, bread, refill nuts and seeds etc – and for customers to have the confidence that they are getting certified organic goods,” explained Al Overton, buying director at Planet Organic.
The organic theme extends to all areas of the shop. “We also have our own-brand product ranges all certified organic, and our kitchens and in-store coffee, juice and food counters are certified by the Soil Association’s Food For Life scheme, for which we receive the highest level of accreditation,” Al continued. “We were the first store to be certified by the Soil Association, and feel that is it important that the customer can rely on the same rigorous approach to product standards right from the field to their shopping basket.”
Organic, Al said, is much more than a label. “It is an assurance that the food you are buying was grown in a more sustainable way, that is better for the health of you and your family, and that with dairy, meat or fish that the health and welfare of the animal was much greater. And yes, all of those things are important to our customers.”
While 24% of shoppers make an effort to buy organic produce, this rises to 38% in London, according to Wren Kitchens’ data. Those in the South West were least likely to buy organic, with just 13% saying they make an effort to do so.
Organic is also more popular with younger generations. Generation Z and Millennials showed the highest preference, with 38% and 37% respectively saying they buy organic. Just 13% of those aged 55+ did the same.
The main reason preventing people from choosing organic was the price, with 53% of those surveyed saying that price puts them off, and 41% saying they would buy more if it was cheaper.
Of those surveyed, 19% said they would buy more if their supermarket stocked organic options, and 16% said they would buy more organic food and drink if it was easier to identify on the shelf. But education, as well as clear signage, is needed, as 12% said they would buy more organic food if they had a better understanding of the difference between organic and non-organic food.
“Organic is the most sustainable agricultural system we have, with a set of widely applied standards and practices,” Al explained. “And food production is the greatest source of greenhouse gases. Changing what we eat and how our food is grown has a greater potential to save this planet than any other actions we can take.”
As well as spelling out the benefits that organic produce has for planetary and personal health, Sofia Javed of The Singing Spice Company, which produces organic spices, said retailers should do their own research on the provenance of organic food to boost sales.
“The more they educate themselves about how our food is grown and produced, the more they will feel empowered to make the change knowing organic food not only tastes better, it’s also good for their customers and for the planet,” Sofia said. For instance, she said that while many health-conscious consumers are deeply aware of the importance of buying organic fruits and vegetables over regular produce, that awareness doesn’t often cross over to other areas, like spices.
“We can see from the pandemic that people are thinking carefully about where their food comes from and prioritising choices that are good for the environment and biodiversity. Retailers can see this as an opportunity to encourage customers to ‘trade up’ to better quality food and drink.”
Research has also shown that the organic sector has a loyal customer base, Sofia said. “Its consumers are informed, interested and concerned about what they buy and how they have an impact on both their own health and that of the environment. This should give retailers the reassurance and confidence to introduce more organic lines to their shops and stores.” For retailers, it appears organic certified products are the gift that keeps giving.