Friday, 14 January, 2022

Why organic still faces consumer doubts


Really organic or just “greenwashing”? A question that is creeping up more and more in the minds of consumers if we are to believe the latest barometer of consumption and perception of organic products in France unveiled Thursday, February 20 by the Bio Agency. It must be said that organic consumption is now well anchored in French habits: nearly 9 out of 10 French people consume it, even if it is only occasionally. More importantly, 71% say they consume it once a month and 47% at least once a week. Health, taste and the environment remain the main reasons given. The surprise comes from the brakes on the consumption of organic products. If the question of too expensive prices remains cited by 80% of the people questioned, another reason given is growing: 66% raise doubts about the fact that the product is completely organic.

“With the arrival of large-scale distribution and large food companies, consumers may be asking the question ‘is this really the same organic product?’”, Says Florent Guhl, director of the Agency. bio as an element of explanation. It is true that the green wave has been sweeping the shelves in recent years (opening of organic stores for Leclerc or ambition of 5 billion euros in turnover generated by organic in 2022 for Carrefour for example), allowing greater accessibility.

Read alsoLeclerc, Carrefour, Monoprix: who will win the organic battle?

So much so that mass distribution represents almost half of the organic food market in France. Among the French who consume organic products at least once a month, 77% buy them in supermarkets. And yet, they seem more and more attracted to local shops, artisans or purchases directly from producers. When asked about their expectations, only 66% cite hypermarkets and supermarkets! On average, consumers only give a score of 5.7 / 10 to organic products sold in supermarkets and supermarkets. Less good than last year and an already weak 5.9 / 10.

Mistrust of large retailers and the food industry

A disenchantment with mass distribution that the ObSoCo (Society and Consumption Observatory) already noted a year ago in a study. “There is an ideological criticism of large-scale distribution”, pointed out the co-founder of ObSoCo Philippe Moati, while bakeries, artisans, markets are associated with a positive imagination in the minds of consumers. And even though large-scale retailers have taken actions in favor of “better eating” – at times giving the impression of an overbidding of communication on this subject – only 15% of consumers declared that they believed in “the ability to large-scale distribution to really engage in the food transition “. They are even fewer – barely 11% – to show confidence in the food industry about the food transition.

The consumption of organic products is indeed accompanying a marked change in the eating habits of the French. The latest barometer from the Agence bio notes that 58% have modified them over the past three years. Avoiding waste, buying more fresh produce, seasonal produce and local produce are also part of the underlying trend. So obviously, finding even organic tomatoes all year round on the shelves does not fit well with this logic. In France, the organic market is thus 31% based on imports (and one in two imported organic products is an exotic product). But 3 in 4 French people think that “French organic products are better controlled than imported organic products” which must nevertheless be compatible with European regulations. A sign that consumers are waiting for clear information on products. “The question of confidence in food is more important than in other countries”, recognizes Florent Guhl.

Working group with distributors

The confidence index attributed by the French to the information provided on organic products even drops to 5.9 / 10 in the barometer published this Thursday, with a lack of information on the environmental impact, the origin of the products, the regulations and controls singled out. “A loss of confidence that can be attributed in particular to greenwashing,” suggests the Organic Agency for which the massive use of the ecological argument has “probably” contributed to mistrust. “Other approaches close to organic” but without the label may have added to the confusion, adds Florent Guhl.

How to regain consumer confidence? The Organic Agency has set up a working group with distributors to reflect on the structuring of sectors, transparency in the construction of prices, the distribution of value, in short to try to meet the expectations of local organic , ethical and responsible. “All the distributors were there during the first meeting”, points out Philippe Henry, president of the Organic Agency, proof of the importance of the subject. Will the resulting commitments be up to a committed consumer? The latest Cetelem consumer observatory also showed that 35% of Europeans believe that a more responsible mode of consumption will be “instituted and imposed by consumers themselves” …

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Bio Agency

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