There has been a fair share of criticism and praise towards the organic industry, and nearly every person has an opinion on it one way or another. With the past year being what it was, views and perceptions have been shaken, and we, at Canadian Organic Growers (COG), wanted to know if the opinions on organics have followed suit.
By conducting research and analyzing the results of a survey that we sent out over our social media, we were able to dive into a sample of the general public’s opinions on organics. We found that there is a level of divide between the organic sector and the average consumer.
While COG is an advocate for organic growing and the benefits of regenerative organic agriculture, this survey was conducted to get an understanding of the general population’s opinions and perceptions of organics. The survey was completed by 45 participants from all different backgrounds, perspectives and occupations ranging from certified organic farmers to people who never buy organic goods.
In our survey, the one recurring and prominent concern was the price of organics.
Pricing is one of the most difficult barriers that consumers and farmers alike encounter when it comes to organics. While the price of organics is becoming less shocking to people, it’s still a major turn-off for those who either feel they can’t afford the cost or aren’t actively seeking out organic products.
We asked for respondents to complete the following question: “Eating organic is…” And nearly 70% of the responses finished the sentence with “expensive.”
We’d love to assure the public that organics will ultimately become more affordable in the future, but that depends on many moving parts, such as how the agro-economy grows and if there is government support for organic and transitional farmers. Although we anticipate that there will be less of a price difference between organic and non-organic food in the near future, it’s hard to say what will happen to food costs.
Organic farmers are working hard to sustain their families, farms, communities and land while adhering to the organic standards. As consumers, we have to remember that no one person can change the world — or the ways of the economy — alone.
In this past year, we proved that working together and listening to each other can bring about great changes, and it starts with how we view our responsibilities as consumers and advocates of the earth.
Fluff Words & Marketing Shortfalls
The issues surrounding marketing and deceptive packaging were another common trend throughout the responses. People have become skeptical — almost resentful — of seemingly organic branding and the associated feeling of being duped. The food marketing industry has been known to slap terms like ‘natural’ and ‘green’ on packaging, and consequently, the connotations of these words have lost much of their impact. The terms are now being used on almost any product that is ‘from the earth,’ but don’t necessarily represent sustainability, organic practices or healthy living.
“The ‘organic’ label feels watered down. Commercially, it doesn’t hold much value anymore.” – Anonymous respondent
Unfortunately, our survey results suggest that nearly 60% of consumers have had doubts about the authenticity of products labelled as organic out of fear that the claim is just another marketing scheme. While there are strict standards that must be met in order to get the official certified Canada Organic logo, packaging and messaging can still be deceiving.
Organic is so much more than just an assumed health benefit or an eye-rolling marketing ploy. When buying organic — especially local organic — food, you are creating a ripple effect that benefits many different aspects of our world. We will highlight these in upcoming articles. Stay tuned!
Many people make their purchasing choices with the environment in mind, and don’t mind paying slightly more for a product they know will benefit it. But that assumes they have access to the product.
While nearly half of the survey respondents don’t regularly buy organic, more than 90% either already purchase organics or seemed genuinely interested in purchasing organic products (both food and household items) if they became more readily available.
This is encouraging news for farmers and businesses that grow, sell or use organic products. People are interested in purchasing organically made goods, they just crave regulated accessibility.
While most respondents stated that they believe the stigma towards people who buy organic products is dwindling, there is still a large amount that believe there are still imposed stereotypes. And, based on our survey answers, some of the different persona stereotypes are “hippie-dippie”, “rich hipsters”, or “tree huggers”. While these personas may not deter most people from buying organic, they could offer an internalized bias towards the organic industry.
While the above-mentioned stereotypes may be the front of mind or surface level perspectives from our respondents, many organic advocates and farmers also often hear that organics are mostly for people with chronic illness or pregnant women.
These are all images, assumptions, perceptions that the organic community has been trying to shake. Buying or eating organic is a choice that can be made for many reasons, and most (if not all) reasons have nothing to do with social status. Regenerative organic agriculture is about rebuilding and maintaining biodiversity, soil health, and food security. It’s not a matter of status, pride or winning a popularity contest.
Thank you to all who participated in the survey, and we hope to hear more from you soon!
*We understand that our survey is a small sample group and doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinions of the much larger public. We are continuing to refine our knowledge of opinions from people of all occupations, areas and socio-economic sectors, so if you want to be a part of COG’s future surveys, or want to see when we post updates, please sign up for our email communications, below.