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Organic Food: Understanding the consumer and increasing sales

Anon (2004) Organic Food: Understanding the consumer and increasing sales. Soil Association .

[thumbnail of TNS2004eng.pdf] PDF - English
[thumbnail of TNS2004cym.pdf] PDF - English


This report is based on research by Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS), commissioned by the Soil Association and supported by the Welsh Development Agency and Organic Centre Wales to explore the attitudes and buying behaviour of organic consumers. The aim of the research, conducted in January and February 2003, was to increase understanding of consumer motivations in order to promote organic food more effectively and increase sales. The aim of this report is to summarise the research for the benefit of Welsh organic businesses and provide them with practical pointers for their marketing.
TNS analysed the buying behaviour and attitudes of 15,000 households using its Superpanel database and conducted a further, more detailed opinion survey in which they interviewed 4,000 people in their homes.
Key findings
The market relies heavily on the purchases of a committed minority of ‘heavy buyers’ and sales through three leading retailers. Tesco, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s account for 70 per cent of organic food sales, and just 23 per cent of organic consumers account for 84 per cent of spending.
Most lighter organic buyers are probably buying organic products ‘accidentally’ rather than consciously buying organic. The most important consumers for growing the market are the medium and heavy buyers whose motivations indicate a positive attitude towards organic food
Heavy buyers tend to be older and better off than the UK population average, and most live in London and the South East. This is a discerning and selfconfident group of consumers, much more likely to regard themselves as connoisseurs of food and wine, to seek out eco-friendly products and to read the ingredients on packs before buying.
The two most important motivations driving organic consumers are taste and health. There is a direct correlation between the extent to which consumers believe in the health and taste benefits of organic food and the number of categories they buy into.
Taste and food safety concerns are the main factors in persuading people to try organic food for the first time and in encouraging buyers to increase their spending. But light consumers only become medium consumers – serious organic shoppers – when they also are persuaded of the positive health, environmental and animal welfare benefits of eating organic.
A combination of delivering good-quality and great-tasting organic lines to medium consumers while communicating to them the food quality benefits in detail (ie pesticide and additive avoidance and higher nutrient content) may well be the key to expanding the body of heavy consumers.
Among non-buyers, price is the main barrier to purchase, although one in seven non-buyers cites not having enough information to justify the price premium.
Fruit and vegetables are the main entry point to organic purchasing. From there consumers tend to graduate to eggs and dairy products, then packaged grocery products, then meat and soft drinks.
Most people first find out about organic food from a television programme or press article.
Sixty per cent of organic consumers are more likely to buy organic food if it originates from the UK, compared to 1 per cent who are less likely to buy UK products and 38 per cent for whom it does not really matter.
Motivation towards locally sourced products within the UK is generally not as strong as motivation towards UK products – with the exception of Wales, Scotland and the East Midlands, where support for local food is even stronger than support for UK produce generally.
Key recommendations for marketing
Tell the organic story: communicate product origin and all the diverse benefits of eating organic through promotional literature and on-pack information, encouragement of farm visits, building of contact with journalists
Market and deliver on taste: ensure products meet consumer quality expectations, promote the full flavour of organic produce, organise promotional tastings
Hit the consumer hotspots: focus marketing spend on medium and heavy consumers, the south east and the top three multiple retailers
Keep it simple: don’t neglect to tell consumers how they identify organic products and how ‘organic’ differs from ‘free range’ and ‘natural’
Highlight health: communicate the highly motivational health benefits as far as advertising restrictions allow
Make connections: link up with appropriate charities to accentuate wildlife and other benefits; exploit the typical sequence of buying by promoting eggs and dairy to fruit and veg consumers, meat to dairy consumers
Exploit the Welshness of your product within Wales but highlight the Britishness elsewhere in the UK

EPrint Type:Report
Keywords:market, food, health, taste, consumer, sales
Subjects: Food systems > Food security, food quality and human health
Knowledge management > Education, extension and communication
Food systems > Markets and trade
Values, standards and certification > Consumer issues
Research affiliation: UK > Soil Association
UK > Other organizations
UK > Univ. Aberystwyth > Organic Centre Wales (OCW)
Deposited By: Powell, Ms Jane
ID Code:10858
Deposited On:19 Jun 2007
Last Modified:12 Apr 2010 07:35
Document Language:English
Refereed:Not peer-reviewed

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