Organic foods on the rise among young Europeans

7 Oct 2019

Young people are now among the biggest consumers of organic foods and beverages in Europe – and manufacturers may need to rethink their organic brands if they want to appeal to the next generation.

According to market research organisation Mintel, about three-quarters of shoppers in five European markets buy organic food, and about a third do so at least once a week. But while organic food has long reassured consumers that they are buying chemical-free, safe and clean label products, it says the reasons for buying organic are evolving. In a recent survey, Mintel found organic shoppers aged 16-24 were more concerned with ethical and environmental concerns than those in other age groups, and often were looking for more than organic certification alone.

Organic foods on the rise among young Europeans
Organic claims may not be enough for a new generation of ethically minded shoppers

The promise of healthy, ethical and environmentally friendly foods is still very important for younger generations, but increasingly, younger generations are seeking assurances of broader sustainability and integrity in the supply chain. This may mean that organic is not the primary marketing message, presenting both a challenge and an opportunity for food manufacturers. Mintel suggests that brands need to embed their organic claims within wider messages of sustainability, and build brand identity around a genuine set of ethical principles.

For food companies, the organic sector holds obvious appeal, as worldwide sales of organic foods and beverages nearly quadrupled from 2002 to 2016, according to market researcher Ecovia. Mintel’s Global New Products Database shows the annual number of organic new product launches has increased 147% since 2010.

In response to growing market demand, food ingredient companies have been increasing their ranges of organic options. Although basic foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, meat, eggs and dairy are the biggest categories for organic foods, manufacturers of specialty ingredients have started to ramp up production of organically sourced products too. Naturex, for example, says there is particularly high demand for colours and extracts from organic carrot, red beet, kale, broccoli, berries and acerola; and demand for organic specialty oils also is growing, as food manufacturers increasingly are looking for options that allow them to differentiate their organic products by seeking out organic sourcing for all of their ingredients. Dutch supplier De Wit, for example, says about half of its hemp seed oil and pumpkinseed oil is organic.

Although manufacturers in Europe and the United States can use some organic claims on-pack even if their products contain small quantities of non-organic ingredients, rising interest in the integrity of foods and food production may spur more brands to chase 100% organic claims. It seems likely that such a whole-product approach may be exactly the kind of tactic that appeals to the upcoming generation of health-conscious and environmentally conscious young consumers.

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