Organic food consumption surges
Millions of consumers have turned to organic food during the COVID-19 pandemic and more than half of all shoppers have bought certified organic in the last year, according to the Australian Organic Market Report 2021 released by Australian Organic Limited (AOL).
AOL CEO Niki Ford says the health and environmental benefits of organic food production, which is free from chemicals, pesticides and fertilisers, are driving the sector’s growth.
“Consumers are prioritising personal and environmental health, and this has been brought to front of mind by recent climatic events and the pandemic,” she says. “Over the course of the past year we’ve seen around nine million Australian households purchase organic food.”
The report finds that Australians are encouraged by the benefits of eating organic food, with 62 percent of shoppers citing personal health as a motivator for their first purchase of organic produce and 45 percent choosing organic due to environmental considerations.
The research also shows more than 80 percent of food shoppers in Australia are receptive to buying an organic product, with 60 percent currently purchasing organics at a low level but showing a high interest in fresh organic produce. Thirty-seven percent of established organic shoppers increased the amount of organic products they purchased in the past year, with the average household spend on organic increasing 12.8 percent since 2019.
Ford says the organic industry has shown significant growth in the face of a turbulent year.
“The Australian certified organic industry continues to prosper despite the challenges faced over the past two years,” she says. “Through drought, bushfires, floods and the pandemic, the industry continues to grow at an impressive rate. There are now 4233 organic operations in Australia, displaying steady long-term growth of 38 percent since 2011.”
While the industry is growing, the vast majority (88%) of shoppers said they didn’t know that there’s currently no single legal definition for use of the term “organic” in Australia. Almost one third of shoppers who bought an organic product in the past year believe they’ve previously been misled by organic claims on product packaging, giving further urgency to the need for a mandatory domestic standard for use of the term “organic” in Australia.
“The current lack of a unified, legal organic definition undermines shopper confidence,” Ford says. “While global markets, with standards in place, can be sure that the organic products they’re purchasing from Australian businesses are certified organic, unfortunately, Australian consumers can’t be assured the same confidence, creating confusion and causing consumer mistrust within the organic marketplace.”
The Organics Industry Advisory Group is assessing whether the current organic regulatory framework is fit for purpose, with a final report with key recommendations due to Agriculture Minister David Littleproud this month.