Magazine article Marketing

Do Upmarket Stores 'Own' Organic?

Magazine article Marketing

Do Upmarket Stores 'Own' Organic?

Article excerpt

Organic food is becoming a big part of supermarkets strategies. But research from Taylor Nelson Sofres shows that the changing profile of organic shoppers could give the retailers a shock. Glen Motel reports

To walk through Sainsbury's Cromwell Road store is to understand how gods must shop. Gourmet fish, handmade Belgian chocolates, caviar -- the only thing missing is a Faberge Egg counter. Tesco has tried something similar in Kensington, while Safeway will also be catering for the wealthy when it opens its concept Tower Bridge store in November.

But as these multiples move upmarket, a polarisation in supermarkets' marketing strategy is becoming evident. A distinct line is being drawn between the luxurious and the affordable, but both sides are currently battling over 'ownership' of one of the fastest growing food sectors around: organic.

The organic market is worth [pound]340m annually, a figure that has doubled two years in a row, and the big supermarkets have responded with the rapid roll-out of their own organic ranges. In organic packaged groceries, the most rapidly growing sector, own-label takes a third of sales. This is a little below its 41% share of the total market, but surprisingly high for such a new area (TNS Superpanel).

Tesco has gained significant ground on market leader Sainsbury's and is planning a massive relaunch of its own-brand organic range. Sainsbury's has identified organic shoppers as 'ABC1s, smaller households and people with very young children' and is using organic food to enforce its quality image.

Healthy options

Last week it became the first supermarket in the world to have all of its own-label organic products certified by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements. And in Cromwell Road, it is playing the health card very strongly. Duty manager John Dale explains: "We've created a shop within a shop, which includes not only organic products, but health-related brands as well. It's called the Organic and Well Being Section."

Food safety is one of the biggest drivers of the organic food market. People are no longer content to be told that a product is low in fat, low in saturates and high in polyunsaturates. BSE, GM food and contradictory health warnings have stolen the public's trust. They now need to feel sure of the entire manufacturing process.

But these are issues that affect the entire UK population and there are signs of a shift in the perceived 'upmarket shopper' image often associated with organic foods.

The profile of organic shoppers is confused. The majority still live in the affluent south and the heaviest organic buyers still tend to be wealthy. But more and more people are beginning to dabble. Last year, 57% of households bought some organic products, which is up from 31% two years ago, according to figures from TNS Superpanel. In a link with attitudinal research from Omnimas, TNS has found that the average organic shopper is younger and more downmarket than before.

Somerfield thinks the demographics are shifting in its favour. Last week it lowered the price of its organic products by 25% as part of a four-week campaign. Somerfield spokesman Pete Williams says: "The idea is to tackle some of the issues that dissuade. …

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