When the economists of the future get together to discuss the trends that marked the global financial boom of the late nineties and early noughties, the chances are that organic food will loom large.
The global love affair with organic food, textiles and beauty products really started in the years in which property prices soared, Tony Blair governed ‘Cool Britannia’ and cheap borrowing seemed limitless (to the bankers at least!). But, having ridden the comet trail of the boom, organic producers are now facing their first real taste of hard times. Shoppers who were once happy to shell out a premium for healthy food and softer, more caring fabrics are now having to keep a closer eye on their budgets. The present dip, as organic fare appears to be falling out of favour with cash-strapped consumers, is a real threat to future success. So what can the UK’s once-thriving organic market do to survive the dreaded downturn?
Stay Connected to Conscientious Consumers
Marketing gurus have identified ‘conscientious consumers’ as the organic movement’s true early adopters. Far more likely to let green issues affect their spending than more mainstream shoppers, they are the people who look at supermarkets with suspicion, and instead buy fairly-traded and organic goods from markets and health food stores. In a recession it could well be these core consumers that see companies through to better times.
The problem is that these consumers can be judgemental and difficult to reach. Organic manufacturers who happily courted supermarket spending during the good times may now find these core customers switching off. To reconnect, retailers and manufacturers that deal in organics must re-establish their position as brands that are ethical, affordable and good for the environment.
Winning the Marketing War
In a recession premium brands have to work harder at convincing their customers that it’s worth spending a little extra for a better product. This can be difficult. Consumers with tighter budgets may be more likely to buy cheaper ‘own brand’ beans no matter how tasty the more expensive branded equivalent! The organic industry has to think like these established brands by reiterating the health and environmental benefits that come from choosing organic. Conscientious consumers are already well aware of these factors – but it’s average shoppers who can create fresh cash flow for struggling companies.
Being Vocal in the Press
During the boom the organic industry received massive support from newspaper columnists and TV chefs all happy to bask in the organic sector’s newly minted trendy green image. However, now that the honeymoon period is over there are more headlines in the press attacking organic – whether it’s criticising the movement’s eco-credentials or dismissing organic fare as ‘yuppie food’. In order to survive the organic sector needs to answer back, both through official channels like the Soil Association and by independent manufacturers giving their point of view to the media-creators. From a positive blog post to a carefully-targeted press release, the right kind of words can help win the war!
And Now For Some Good News
Happily, market research company Mintel predicts that though the number of people buying organic products has shrunk along with the economy, another boom is still likely. In fact, they claim that the market for all environmentally-friendly products will expand for the five years after the recession ends. Brilliant news for the future and hopefully heartening for the organic sector, and its supporters who are facing tough times at the moment.