Growth of organic food sales stifled by ‘unjustified’ prices

Organic food sales in supermarkets are booming but excessive price mark-ups are restricting the sector’s appeal and holding back its growth, according to a study by a French consumer group. As awareness grows about the potential environmental and health impacts of pesticides and chemical fertilisers, more and more people are choosing to eat organic food. The value of organic food sales in France has multiplied by three-and-a half since 2007 to reach €7.15bn in 2016. More labour-intensive production methods and lower yields mean consumers expect to pay a premium for organic produce. But the study by French consumer association UFCQue Choisir has shed light on the opaque pricing structure of big food distributors and questioned whether the organic mark-up is justified. But while organic fruit and vegetables are more expensive to grow, almost half of this price difference is down to the premium charged by supermarkets. Only half of the price difference between organic and non-organic food finds its way back to farmers. The inflated mark-ups on the two most popular organic grocery items are even more marked. French supermarket profits are on average 135% higher on organic tomatoes and 163% higher on organic apples than on equivalent non-organic products. High prices and a poor range of products on offer appear to be among the main obstacles to the growth of organic sales. Three in four French shoppers (73%) want to see more choice of organic products in their supermarkets, but close to four in five (77%) also said high prices hold them back from eating more organic food. The report called on France’s authorities to improve price transparency to ensure neither consumers nor farmers are short-changed.