Round Table on Organic & Safe Food Finding The Consumer
The over use of chemical fertilizer, pesticides and insecticides, and other post harvest crop protection methods has become a cause of concern for aware and conscious consumers. Some medical reports relate cancer and other ailments to consumption of contaminated food, thus giving rise to demand for organically grown food. However the organic market is probably not growing at a pace as projected, as organic marketers face the challenge of ‘Finding the Organic Consumer’. Ecociate understands that no one stakeholder can meet the challenge on its own, and therefore , ideated to bring all the stakeholders in the organic value to the Roundtable, Organic and Safe Food: Finding the Consumer, at Habitat Centre, Delhi on 27th December 2018. About 40 participants, which included representations from FPO, NGO, Donors, policy maker, Organic brands, Organic retailers and exporters, shared the platform and deliberated on the issues that have enabled market growth , and those that have been a barrier to growth.
Mr. Santosh Gupta, welcomed the participants as the ‘master of the event’ for the organizing team.
Summary of Proceedings
The Roundtable discussion commenced with study presentation by Mr. Saroj Mohanta, Director – Ecociate. The study was conducted in-house by Ecociate, in Delhi/NCR , to understand the organic consumer and the associated challenges for organic food marketers. Some of the highlights of the study are as follows
- 97% of organic consumers were graduates or post graduates
- 90% of them were aged between 25-45 years. 21% were unmarried and <35 years. Households with children (63% ) consumed organic food
- 48% of HHs were employed four major sectors, IT & Telecom, Banking & Insurance, Healthcare and Manufacturing
- 43% consumers were aware of all five food categories, Cereals & pulses, Fruits & Vegetables, Tea, Fruit juice, Packaged food. Tea is the entry point for organic food consumption
- <20% could recognize a organic certification mark and only 5% could recall PGS
- About 55% recalled 24 Mantra as a Organic brand.
- 73% HHs spent between Rs2000-6000 on organic food every month
- 35% existing consumer households are price sensitive for the organic food products consumed.
The session raised the marketing related to low awareness of range of organic products, very poor awareness of certification , poor knowledge of organic brands and high sensitivity to premium price.
First Panel Session
The first panel session was moderated by Mr. Kirti Mishra and the panellists were major organic brands and brand retailers in Delhi/NCR, Mrs. Reema Bhartiya, Mr. Varun Singla, Mr. Mihir Mohanta, Mr. Anoop Varma in the discussion panel as esteemed speakers.
Mr. Kirti shared the interest of Ecociate to work towards developing sustainable business models for organic business. He highlighted some experiments on sustainability, related to reducing practices of stubble burning, development of indigenous seed banks, zero budget agriculture, etc. . He raised the question to participating stakeholders on their preparedness to integrate their business with the emerging organic food and other programs of NRLM. It was stressed that, “Organic is not an option but a necessity.”
The panel agreed that organic food business has been undertaken by most entrepreneurs because of their passion to promote safe food. Many of them believed that, the food available in the neighbourhood markets, were toxic and unsafe for consumption. They were also passionate to connect directly with farmers who produced organic food and felt assured of the quality.
The retailers and brand owners shared their experience of interfacing with unaware consumers and the challenge to educate them about the health advantages of organic food. It was stated that the most educated and well off households , living in the highend apartments , were equally unaware leading to a slow conversion. They agreed that a concerted effort to educate consumers is essential to create higher levels of awareness and acceptance. The recent launch of Safal Organic food was observed as a good opportunity for growth of organic markets as it was felt that Safal reached different corners of NCR. It was also felt that government needs to promote organic for ensuring safer food in the market.
The discussions deliberated on the issue of characterising and finding the consumer. While some felt that societal awareness was desired , it was felt that, women are the key influencers in the family. Voices were also in favour of using digital media for reaching out to the consumers and creating a niche’ for organic food products.
A section of the retailers and farmer groups felt that Organic brand have governance issues that needs to be resolved. It was argued that farmers are less aware of the Organic certification process and licenses . It will be necessary for government certification entities to enable the ecosystem for easier implementation of the certification and trademarks. Government policies and recommended practices must suggest lowering the use of chemicals and pesticides and the use of bio and organic inputs.
The panel expressed the need to meet periodically and discuss the marketing issues and find collaborative efforts to move ahead
Ecociate launched its digital platform, “Earthy n Green” on this occasion. Mr Saumya Mishra, shared the features and benefits of the portal to the participants
Second Panel Session
The second panel session was moderated by Mr. Saroj Mohanta and the panellists represented, the academia, donors and policy maker, Mrs. Sapna Narula, Mr. Anjani Kumar, Mr. Abhishek Joshi and Dr. A.K. Yadav respectively.
The session was initiated with the study conducted by Prof Sapna on behavioural segmentation of organic consumers. She used the Maslow hierarchy approach to segment the consumers . She felt that consumer profile need to be studied and organic products should be targeted accordingly. The functional values and aspirational association with the Organic food need to be separated for targeted marketing. A sustained effort to develop understanding of the evolving organic consumer was felt necessary.
Abhishek shared about a Welthungerhilfe (WHH) project funded by European Union, to promote all stakeholders in the organic value chain. The project understands the value added by different stakeholders in the supply chain and therefore intends to strengthen the businesses. It would also promote enterprises that promote organic. The project is setting up an a platform BhoomiKa tp promote organic. Abhishek feels that organic food should be promoted in small towns as well and should not be targeted at metro consumers , as is being practiced today.
Anjani Kumar will be designing programs on organic food products within the scope of agricultural programs of World Bank. He shared the new scope for producing and promoting organic in various state rural livelihoods programs . The state governments will be encouraged to pilot programs
Dr AK Yadav , has been in the centre of developing policies and outlining the scope for growing and marketing organic food products in India. He shared his efforts to develop PGS as the certification process for organic . He feels that producers, marketers and retailers need to sustain their efforts to reach out to conscious consumers as the market will evolve over time. Policies on certification for organic food are still evolving with the changing food preferences and market needs.
The discussions also covered the subject of awareness among farmers about chemical based agri inputs in agriculture. The farmers are known to grow organic food crops and vegetables on specific tracts of land while they produce chemically treated agri products for markets . The farmers are consuming organically produced food or possibly naturally produced food. It was felt that these farm produce though not certified , should be recognized and acknowledged as organic.
The half day roundtable closed with question and answer session with the participants. The larger agreement among the participants was to keep sharing the learning from market and support the different initiatives.
Glimpses of The Event
Mr Kirti Prasanna Mishra
Kirti Prasanna Mishra is the Co-founder of Ecociate, a knowledge organisation to promote sustainable businesses impacting communities at the BoP.
Mr Saroj Kumar Mohanta
A marketing professional with expertise in Market Research, Consumer Insights and Business Model Innovation(BMI), Saroj has been working in the Emerging Markets for more than two decades.
APEDA, Advisor, NAB, Organic
Dr Yadav is Advisor (NAB) at Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), Ministry of Commerce, Government of India.
Mr. Abhishek Joshi
Deutsche Welthungerhilfe (WHH)
Abhishek is a Value Chain Specialist and Program Lead for Switch Asia II Promoting sustainable consumption and production systems for safe and organic foods in India at Deutsche Welthungerhilfe e.V, South Asia Office.
Mr. Anjani Kumar
Anjani Kumar Singh is a Senior Consultant with the Agriculture Global Practice of the World Bank, working in the South Asia Region.
Mr. Anoop Verma
Founder, Everything Organic
Anoop Varma has a background of hotel industry and then going to launch leading TV channels of this country and finally quitting the corporate world as a country manager of a leading broadcast media technology company. He set up Everything Organik 4 years ago and apart from the online presence he sets up an organic market in Gurgaon every Sunday and now they have a retail outlet in south delhi as well …..
Mr. Mihir Mohanta
Mihir is General Manager (SCM)- International Business, Mother Dairy Fruits and Vegetables Pvt. Ltd, having more than 25 years of experience in Food Industry. He has handled wide range of functions like procurement, processing, retailing, merchandising & supply chain.
Founder, Vakshi Organics
Vakshi organics is a business startup that is trying to find solutions to 3 biggest problems of 21st Century- Food Adulteration, Air Pollution and Water Pollution.
Mrs. Reena Bhartiya
Chairman, Mother Organic
Mrs. Reena Bhartiya, a renowned Social worker who wants to make organic food eating a social movement in true sense of words. Her vision is to make all Indian families -“organic families”. Mrs. Reena bhartiya has been working tirelessly for the past 5 years to achieve the dream of spreading the wellness of organic foods all over India.
Ms. Sapna Narula
Dr. Sapna A. Narula is working as Associate Professor and Head in the Department of Business Sustainability at TERI School of Advanced Studies and is currently teaching courses on sustainable business strategy, Sustainability Reporting, CSR and Strategic planning.