Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Future development of organic market in Europe - Delphi results

The dynamics and prospects for development of the market for organic food have been explored using the Delphi method, an iterative process involving feedback to a panel of expert participants to refine perspectives on complex or uncertain issues. Organic food market experts in 18 European countries explored factors influencing the development of the organic market, future market prospects, and the role of governments in future market development. Of the total of 252 questionnaires initially sent out, response rates were 85%, 80%, and 76% in successive rounds. The first round required open responses to broad questions covering events and influences shaping prior development of the organic market in the respondent’s own country, its current state, the respondent’s expectation of its future development, and marketing initiatives formed by collaborating organic producers. The subsequent two rounds refined the attitudinal results into precise statements, which tested respondents’ degree of agreement or disagreement.

The Delphi process allowed classification of countries according to the state of development of their organic market: established, growing and emerging organic markets. Food scandals, the media, and government policy were all considered to be important driving forces for the development of the organic market. Within each country, experts do not consider all markets for organic food to be equally developed. Markets in urban areas, and for cereals, dairy products and fruit & vegetables, are better developed than those for meat and convenience products and those in rural areas. Multiple retailers are considered the most important retail channel both at present and in the future, but experts commented on their heterogeneity and raised concerns about the impact of price-cutting policies on organic producers. With increased development of the organic market, the importance of alternative channels (direct marketing, specialist organic shops) may decline. Catering and public procurement is not expected to overtake any of the other outlets in terms of importance in the near future, with the exception of some countries with developed organic food markets, such as Austria and Denmark. Fragmented and underdeveloped markets and lack of marketing know-how were considered the most important of a list of possible constraints for the development of supply, followed by poor cooperation and communication and low levels of farm-gate premiums, whereas lack of supermarket involvement and competition from non-organic alternatives were not seen as important. High consumer price, poor availability of organic products, lack of consumer information and awareness and poor product presentation were considered important constraints for the development of demand, whereas competition from near-organic alternatives and lack of credibility of the certification systems were not considered important.

Expected growth for the coming years varied among countries and product groups, with the lowest rates anticipated in Denmark (approx. 2%) and for cereals markets, and the highest rates in Germany and the UK (7-8%) and for meat and convenience products. These rates do not appear to be directly related to market development but reflect specific country conditions. Experts agreed that organic marketing structures need to improve with expected increases in both supply and demand; that a broader product range could help stimulate demand; and that new consumer groups should be targeted. They do not think that promotion should be based on risks associated with conventional food. Respondents clearly supported the need to develop EU standards in areas not yet well regulated (for example, horticulture and fish) and to consider the environmental impact of trade.

Integration of organic agriculture with other rural development initiatives is considered important both for the organic market and for rural development. Identical business and marketing principles apply to organic and other marketing initiatives, and producer cooperatives can play an important role in securing a fair price for organic producers. Demand in rural areas is not well enough developed to offer significant potential for OMIs. Experts associate a variety of different issues with rural development and do not have a shred understanding of the contribution that organic farming can make, apart from improved soil fertility, local environment and landscape. Poor quality of management is the most important of a list of barriers preventing OMIs from achieving their objectives, followed by a shortage of capital. This corresponds well with the classification of policy support instruments to enhance OMI contribution to rural development, where training in business skills for OMI managers, initiatives to stimulate consumer demand and stability in government support were considered the most important measures.

Reported by

University of Wales Aberystwyth
School of Management and Business, Penglais
United Kingdom
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