July 8, 2021

Millions of Australians have turned to organic food since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and more than half of shoppers have purchased certified organic in the last year, according to the Australian Organic Market Report 2021, compiled by Australian Organic Limited.

Niki Ford, Chief Executive of Australian Organic Limited, said the dual health and wider environmental benefits of organic production, which is free from synthetic chemicals, pesticides and fertilisers, was driving the sector’s growing consumer base.

Ford said: “In Australia, consumers are continuing to prioritise personal and environmental health, and this has been brought to front of mind by recent climatic events and the global pandemic.

“Over the course of the past year we’ve seen around nine million Australian households purchase organic food during this incredibly challenging time.”

The report said that Australians were encouraged by the benefits of eating organic food, with 62% of shoppers citing personal health as a motivator for their first purchase of organic produce, while 45% alluded to environmental considerations.

The research shows more than 80% of food shoppers in Australia are receptive to buying an organic product, with 60% currently purchasing organics at a low level, but showing a high interest in fresh organic produce.

Australian Organic Limited said that 37% 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% since 2019.

Ford said the organic industry had shown significant growth in the face of a turbulent year.

“The Australian certified organic industry continues to expand and prosper despite the enormous challenges faced over the past two years,” Ford said.

“Through drought, bushfires, floods and most recently the pandemic, the industry is unwavering and continues to grow at an impressive rate. There are now 4,233 organic operations in Australia, displaying steady long-term growth of 38% since 2011.”

Internationally, the United States continues to be the top international market for Australian organic products, representing 33% of all exports in 2020, with 95% of organic meat exports destined for the US.

However, concerningly for the domestic industry, the vast majority (88%) of food shoppers said they did not know there is currently no single legal definition for use of the term ‘organic’ in Australia.

Compounding this issue is the fact that almost one-third of shoppers who purchased an organic product in the past year believe they have 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.

Other key findings of the report were:
*The most engaged organic shoppers are more likely to live in cities;
*63% of all shoppers believe ‘chemical-free’ is the primary perceived benefit of organic products;
*48% of all shoppers believe ‘additive-free’ is a benefit;
*Supermarkets accounted for 90% of organic sales, with the major companies (Woolworths, Coles, Aldi) capturing 77% of market share.

The Australian Organic Market Report, which examines the industry’s more than €1.3 billion annual contribution to the nation’s economy, has this year adopted a more robust research methodology, in collaboration with the University of Melbourne and research partners Euromonitor International, Mobium Group and NielsenIQ.

Greater health awareness, fuelled by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, helped organic food and non-food sales in the US to surge last year by 12.4% to reach €52.8bn based on one survey’s findings.

Organic foods made up the vast bulk of the sales at €46.5bn, up a record 12.8%, which meant that in 2020, almost 6% of all food sold in the US was certified organic, with some categories performing exceptionally well.

The Organic Trade Association, which represents close to 10,000 organic businesses, reported that the growth rate was more than twice that of 2019’s steady 5% and marked the first time that total sales of organic products topped the €49bn mark.

Click here to read more about the Australian food and drink market

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