The trend is growing, to the point where the organic market is expected to exceed the symbolic 100 billion euro turnover mark.
In France, the organic market amounted to 9.7 billion in 2018, a growth of +15.7% compared to 2017.
(source : Agence Bio)
But today consumers want more. The simple mention of "organic" is no longer enough to motivate the purchase of a product and more commitments are expected from major brands and private labels alike. The increasing number of organic products on the shelves has indeed led to the appearance of additional criteria to go further in meeting the expectations of consumers who feel ever more concerned by the consequences of their food on the planet and society. So in order to stand out, manufacturers are taking multiple steps to go beyond organic.
Animal welfare, eco-design and proximity
One of the criteria that is increasingly being used is animal welfare. According to an Ifop study, 92% of French people consider that respect for animal welfare is important, even very important for 71% of 18-24 year olds. However, 59% of the population surveyed believe that the situation is currently satisfactory in this regard. For the rest, progress needs to be made on pigs and poultry, topping the list of livestock for which welfare needs to be improved as a priority. Among professionals, this growing demand is taken very seriously as it is already illustrated by 36% of French consumers reducing their meat consumption.
The issue of packaging and manufacturing processes is also part of the growing concerns of consumers. This has led to the development of eco-designed packaging using less plastic or none at all, recycled and recyclable materials, compostable and biodegradable capsules and processes to combat food waste.
Some professionals are even successfully combining all of these concerns, such as Le Picoreur, for example, which offers its organic free-range chicken jointed in eco-friendly packaging containing 70% less plastic than the packaging used previously. Even the cardboard for this packaging comes from sustainably managed forests. The chicken meanwhile is raised outdoors and fed organically.
In a concern for carbon footprint and solidarity with local production, consumers are also turning more to products that emphasize proximity -including in urban centres. "Urban agriculture is developing and becoming a differentiation lever, with a focus on the benefits of proximity and solidarity," comments Protéines XTC in its 2019 Global Innovation Report. In the United States, the Growing Roots brand (Unilever group) - which offers organic snacks made from plants and seeds - supports six urban farms in New York, for example.
Brand transparency, product traceability
Organic, animal welfare, eco-design and proximity are therefore important criteria in today's and tomorrow's food. But consumers are tending to show less trust in manufacturers.
A quarter of French people do not have confidence in the quality of food products and 70% think that companies are not respectful of consumers.
(Kantar TNS study - January 2018)
No longer content to swallow the marketing blurb, consumers now want to see proof.
This is where a number of innovations come in to help brands become more transparent. For example, blockchain technology, which has already revolutionised several other sectors. The French company Connecting Food, for example, is developing such a solution, which is already proving attractive in the world of fruit and vegetables. The principle: each batch of vegetables is accompanied by a QR-code that the consumer simply scans with their smartphone to access a wide range of information. "This system guarantees total transparency on the traceability of the product," points out Protéines XTC in its 2019 Global Innovation Report.
For its part, UBI Solutions has also just launched a traceability solution, this time in the "meat" sector, to get full information "from farmer to plate". For the moment tested on poultry through volunteer producers, this solution gives the consumer access to all kinds of information by simply scanning the RFID tag on the packaging. Again, the goal is to build trust with the consumer.
“Fair remuneration” of breeders and producers
While consumers have become aware of the impact of their food on the environment, they also feel concerned by the social issues related to it. And more particularly by the question of the remuneration of breeders and producers.
"Fair remuneration" is a lever that is increasingly used by brands. For them, solidarity also involves the creation of sectors with responsible, ethical and ecological production. In Europe, national preference is the rule, particularly in the "milk" sector", analyses Protéines XTC. For its "Bio engagé" pasture milk, Lactel, for example, is committed to paying farmers better and respecting animal welfare by offering milk from cows fed without GMOs, collected and bottled in France. Domestic channels can also be found for meat, fruit and vegetables. The same is true for Ingredia with its "Prosperity" milk which guarantees the respect of animal welfare and fair remuneration for farmers.
Meanwhile, the Intermarché group has launched the range "Farmers say thank you" (les éleveurs vous disent merci) with several products highlighting better remuneration for farmers. The products include milk, eggs, butter (unsalted and salted) and fresh cream. And in a similar logic - although initiated not by mass retail but by consumers directly - the brand "C'est qui le patron ?!” (Who’s the boss?) was created. The range today comprises around thirty products, from dairy products to meat, wine, flour, sauces and even some vegetables. Each time the same goals apply: to comply with specifications established by consumers and guarantee fair remuneration to the producers who play by the rules.