The fair price of food must be taken into account
President of the National Federation of Organic Agriculture (Photo credit: William Beekman)
To revive the consumption of organic products, it would be necessary to create an electroshock. We are what we eat. If we are concerned about health, the environment and future generations, we must take action through our food choices. And everyone must be able to choose in an informed and transparent way. To this end, the organic sector must be able to dialogue and present to consumers the dimension behind our label that perhaps escapes them today. Eating organic means eating a product without pesticide residues, which has positive impacts on health and the environment. Many people no longer make the connection between their acts of purchase and the societal consequences of their way of consuming.
This approach presupposes that consumers pay a little attention to it and agree to step out of their comfort zones: their store, department and product habits. We also need to help them ask questions about the real price of food. This is often subsidized by European aid. When we buy a loaf of bread, we are not aware that the common agricultural policy (CAP) helps us to pay for it. And that this real price should also take into account the footprint on the climate, water or biodiversity. This is embedded in a single face price. It is this communication work that we want to do through the Agence bio and the interprofessional associations, hoping that the public authorities will also help us.
Beyond inflation and purchasing power, partly at the origin of the 4.6% drop in consumption in 2022, there is the question of the price of organic products. They suffer from a bad reputation, considered too high and this tends to put consumers off. Because it’s organic, it will necessarily be too expensive for his budget! The buyer does not take the time to look at the price-quality ratio of the product. However, organic products have increased less than the others. And there are also local organic products that are at the same price, or even cheaper than some products sold in supermarkets.
I cannot defend the abusive pricing practices of certain large distributors. We expect public authorities to seize the Observatory of price formation and margins so that it can be the justice of the peace in these debates. There are organic products that have exorbitant prices and that serve us. But there are also a lot of organic products on the farm that are very accessible. It is up to the Observatory to quantify this and make its conclusions public so that we finally have organic products at their fair price. That is to say a price which includes good remuneration for producers, an effort on environmental aspects, but which does not fatten ill-intentioned operators.
Collected by Aude Carasco
An educational effort is needed around the organic label
Consumer expert at the Circana Institute (1) (Photo credit: Sylvie Humbert)
After ten years of double-digit growth, we expected organic to slow down. A clean-up was necessary because many products had been launched out of opportunism, to take advantage of this El Dorado, without any real concern for demand. However, we never imagined that this market could go into negative territory, so profoundly, so permanently.
Occurring from 2021, first in the specialized circuits, this turnaround is linked in particular to the fragmentation of the demand for “good consumption”, with the rise of other labels (“High environmental value”, “Zero pesticide residue” , etc.) and the appeal of products identified as healthy thanks to the Nutri-Score.
There is also a loss of confidence in the organic label. Some consumers have become aware that the packaging is not always green, that certain fruits and vegetables come from afar, with a high carbon impact, or that certain products suffer from an unfavorable Nutri-Score.
In addition, after the Covid, part of the population which, in the large metropolises, bought organic, chose to settle in the countryside, where good consumption is expressed rather in the purchases of local products. Finally, there is the return of inflation, which occurred in 2022. Customers who, for example, bought organic yogurts 30 to 40% more expensive than others have switched back to conventional products, simply to be able to continue to offer yogurts…
It is urgent to restart the machine. Otherwise, there is a risk of seeing a decade of progress in mass retailing wiped out and of weakening producers upstream. To do this, you have to play on the price, cited by 71% of consumers as a brake. We must put an end to the abuses that may have existed here or there. But a significant drop can only be achieved by increasing volumes. It is therefore essential that supermarkets stop reducing the number of their organic references (they have fallen by 11% in one year) and break this vicious circle.
It is also necessary, on the part of all the players, to make an educational effort around the organic label, with institutional campaigns, better signage in stores, an approach in schools, etc.
Finally, too many people have the feeling that organic is incompatible with the notion of pleasure. Also, it is not enough to affix a logo that highlights respect for the environment, it is also necessary, on the packaging and in advertising, to communicate more – as is done for example for certain yoghurts vegetables – on taste and satisfaction. This is all the more essential since the French, despite inflation, have maintained their “pleasure purchases” (ice cream, sweets, etc.).
Recueilli par Denis Peiron
(1) Specialized in mass distribution.