The Organic (AKA: ecological, bio) production of fresh fruit and vegetables is clearly growing in many markets in Europe.
Consumer perception link Organic to production methods and uses of 19th-century agriculture prior to the green revolution. And it is, indeed, this romantic and nostalgic perception, encouraged by organic farmers and their organizations, what it may constitute one of the future threats for this type of agriculture.
Do not forget that this is, in terms of marketing, a Positioning sought after by the business professionals and that any good Positioning has to be backed by the product, be relevant to the consumer, and differentiated from competitors.
It is clear that this image in the mind of the consumer (Positioning) is relevant because it leads to a rational benefit (healthy eating) linked with another emotional benefit (the idealistic romanticism of a better past).
On the other hand, it is also clear that this is a differentiated and distinctive Positioning within the trade of fresh fruit and vegetables. But, unfortunately, it is not sufficiently supported and this is its weakness.
Organic fruit and vegetable production is grown thanks to the help of a constant deploy of new technology and biotechnology.
By way of example, mention that: pesticides are widely used (but they are substances of natural origin), so are used plastics for production in greenhouses and tunnels to obtain early crops (out of their natural growing season); artificial fertilizers are not used but others with a high degree of sophistication (organic amendments, some leachate for fertigation) that have little to do with the classic manure (although it also is widely used), the sown seeds are resistant to pests and diseases but developed according to traditional breeding methods.
In short, we send a message of “Tradition” to consumers based on the means of production when in fact they are of an extreme “modernity”. This is the conflict that must be tackled, especially in a hyper-connected world.
This conflict has already been pictured across some countries television shows and the reaction of consumers is to feel disappointed. And this fact is especially important if we take into account that other alternatives (to the Organics) are fighting to win consumers with emotional benefits that can actually cannibalize the fledgling ecological market niche.
The main competitor of the organic trend is undoubtedly “local for local food”.
Local food is perceived as good, fresh, healthy and also comes from a nearby farmer. Therefore, the emotional ingredients of its Positioning are undeniable: empathy, nationalism, trust, local wealth development, clear social impact, support for the small farmer… etc.
The next cover of the important American magazine TIME Magazine already anticipated this “war” for this market niche on 2007 (See full article here). The message is clear: “Forget Organic. Eat Local”
So, from this humble Blog I propose to start claiming a new Positioning for the marketing of Organic Produce, before consumers are fully aware that not everything in this type of agriculture is tradition and methods of the past.
We can even take advantage of the several generic promotion campaigns focusing the message on something like: “the TechEcology“. It would be necessary to display images of modernity in the campaigns so it could help us to readapt the message.
Although this view is not so romantic, it is fully backed and we could aim attract a more sophisticated group of consumers by claiming “the modern ecology” (the TechEcology); as opposed to a return to a dark and nostalgic past.