New packaging for yogurt and milk products is being rolled out with the simple brand name ‘Rachel’s’ rather than ‘Rachel’s Organic’, as it has been known to date. Industry experts suspect the change is being brought in because many customers now regard organic produce as an expensive luxury they can do without.
In April, the Soil Association, which accredits eight out of 10 organic products for sale in Britain, admitted that sales have levelled off after growth averaging 26% every year since 1993.
Last year, sales grew by just 1.7%, with sales falling off in the last half of 2008. Sales volume also fell. It has also been claimed that at least two farms a week are converting back to non-organic as demand has softened.
Volume sales of organic yogurts and pot desserts have fallen by 5% year on year as people have chosen to rein in their spending. The cost of organic yogurt has risen sharply in the last 12 months, according to comparison website mySupermarket. For example, the price of a 450g pot of Rachel’s Organic Bio-live Low Fat Yogurt with Vanilla at Tesco rose from £1.29 to £1.59.
Rachel’s – Britain’s first certified organic dairy – claimed it was amending the name after a study showed consumers preferred the shorter title.
Steve Clarke, marketing director for the firm, which is based in Aberystwyth, Wales, stressed the word organic would still be displayed “prominently” on packaging. He told The Grocer magazine: “In light of the research, we have streamlined the brand hierarchy so the logo simply features the name Rachel’s in its current signature style. The word ‘organic’ will still feature prominently on-pack as an important and clear description of our dairy products and their ingredients.”
But Adam Leyton, editor of The Grocer, said: “I think it must be in the back of their minds that there are associations between the word ‘organic’ and costliness. The word organic has become slightly cheapened. Nobody really knows what it means, but people think it’s exactly the same product, but more expensive.”
He thought Rachel’s was trying to distinguish itself as a brand, ahead or outside of the organic producers’ pack: “Rachel’s are saying, ‘Don’t buy us simply because we’re organic, but because our products are great’.”
The organic sector, he noted, was having a “tough time”. By comparison, Fairtrade products have been weathering the recession rather better. Mr Leyton thought this was because Fairtrade had a clearer proposition to customers – namely buy them to help Third World farmers. But the reasons for buying organic were numerous and comparatively ill-defined, he said. People may buy organic for ethical reasons, health or taste reasons. He warned: “By being a Jack of all trades, organic is in danger of being a master of none.”
Source: The Daily Telegraph
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