Creating a healthy organic market

Creating a healthy organic market

In the past few years, the terms 'organic' and 'natural' have emerged as buzzwords among health-conscious people – both in our country and across the globe.

The organic wave has swept across all things food and India, too, is experiencing the trend. A heightened sense of concern for the environment combined with the disdain of consuming foods with pesticides/preservative are making people switch to organic vegetables, fruits, pulses, dairy, seafood, and meat.

It is the growing awareness towards having a healthy lifestyle, revulsion towards chemically treated foods, and surging income levels that are shifting consumer preferences and giving a push to the country's nascent organic food market. As per the TechSci Research report, 'India Organic Food Market by Product Type, Competition Forecast and Opportunities, 2011 – 2021', it is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of over 25% during 2016-2021, and position India as the world's fastest growing organic food market.

Growth drivers of healthy produce: Rampant use of chemicals, pesticides, and fertilisers in food items has been identified as a major reason for grave health issues such as cancer, obesity, and birth defects. These harmful pesticides disrupt smooth hormonal production and functions, causing infertility problems in both males and females, and their ingestion may result in neurological and behavioural problems. Many studies have also linked the growing use of synthetic chemical fertilisers and pesticides to issues in fetal development.

Therefore, in order to put an end to the vicious use of pesticides and harmful insecticides in agricultural practices, consumers are now increasingly embracing the products and concept of 'organic' and sustainable farming. This in turn saves money spent on energy resources, reduces global warming, and preserves non-renewable fossil fuels. Also, as organic foods come without the use of any artificial additive, they have a reduced shelf-life, which ensures that consumers get fresher, better-tasting products.

How the Indian e-commerce industry is driving the growth of organic food: The concept of 'all things natural' is gaining widespread acceptability in India, with the market for healthy and organic foods growing at a rapid pace in the country. While the Indian market is fertile for the organic segment to thrive, there are just a few brick-and-mortar retail players that are occupying this space.

There is a high demand for organic foods witnessed from Tier-I cities, such as Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Bengaluru, Gurugram, and Pune, followed by a growing consumer interest experienced from Tier-II and III cities. Currently, only a few players such as Conscious Foods, Sresta, Eco Farms, Organic India, Navdanya, and Morarka Organic Foods exist in the market, due to which, the prices are relatively high (20-30% more), as compared to conventional food items. This is one of the drawbacks of organic food consumption, as consumers are quite price-sensitive. Also, most of the products do not carry any certification as they are from small cooperatives or trade fair companies, mom-and-pop stores, which fare well in regional markets.

Ecommerce players in India have been successful in driving traffic on their websites for the sale of organic products. Around 25 ecommerce firms currently offer groceries online and the segment is expected to pick up at 25-30% each year. For instance, one Mumbai-based online grocery portal has consumers place over half the orders for organic foods, while another witnesses a little over a quarter of all orders coming for organic produce. On the other hand, the share of organic food for a modern trade outlet may not be as high, compared to an ecommerce firm.

What's trending: In a bid to stay healthy and live longer, more and more consumers are opting for chemical-free agro produce and healthy food items. Healthy eating is a choice that people make to gain better nutrition and avoid health risks. In fact, people in rural and urban areas are taking to their backyard or terraces to grow fresh produce. The popularity of organic food has given birth to organic restaurants as well. Some of the popular healthy and organic food items trending in the market are lotus stems, millet, jhakia, lal saag, moringa, sorrel leaves, seabuckthorn, quinoa, and Kerala red rice. According to the TechSci Research report, the highest-selling organic products in the domestic market include snacks, baked foods, dry fruits, pickles, fruits, vegetables, farm-fresh meats, and ready-to-eat foods. Future of the organic and healthy product market: The flourishing startup and ecommerce culture in India has the ability to disrupt the organic marketplace with their unique products and services. As it stands, even with the most conservative estimates, the Indian organic market has the potential to grow at least 25% every year, accentuating the organic market to $1 billion by 2019. India's organic food market has the potential to grow, provided there is more awareness spread about the benefits of choosing organic and healthy products, along with government initiatives and incentives that promote organic farming in order to ensure consistent growth in future.

(The writer is the Co-Founder of SaleBhai)

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