Consumer Attitudes On Organic

The Garden Writers Association Foundation (GWAF) surveys people to get a feel for what the average person thinks about various subjects related to gardening.

My son Will is the chairperson of the survey committee, and he discussed GWA Foundation’s 2008 fall survey of 1,000 people on consumer attitudes on organic. TechnoMetrica, a market intelligence group from Oradell, N.J., conducted the survey.

Will and I usually get together once a week to discuss things related to horticultural business. He provided me a copy of the survey report, which is a well-done, professional account of the findings. He gave me a condensed version and then reviewed each area with me.

I have been involved with the Garden Writers Association for more than 40 years, and I served as the director for the Great Lakes area for more than four years in the 1980s. I’m proud to see how the association has developed and how the foundation is providing meaningful information to our industry

Notebook Scribbles

Here are Will’s notes to me about the 2008 fall survey titled “Consumer Attitudes On Organic.”

Probably the biggest topic of conversation in industry circles over the last few years has been consumer trends when it comes to rising concern about the environment.

The terms “organic” and “natural,” as well as concepts of recycling, have been with the industry since the late 1960s and early 1970s. However, imprecise application of the terms and artistic license used in marketing has led to confusion for consumers.
As growers, we know that an investment in many of these trends can be quite costly, and there is tremendous risk involved in making the commitment to some of these production methods.

It would be most helpful if we could get an accurate picture of: 1) what the consumer’s actual mindset is when it comes to being green/organic; 2) whether the consumer will be willing to pay the increased cost of production; and 3) if the consumer has a clear understanding of the terms “green,” “organic” and “natural.”

The Consumer’s World

The Garden Writers Association Foundation dedicated its Fall 2008 survey to try to shed light on some of these questions. The results have recently been released and hopefully provide some insight into these very important questions.
Here’s a summary of their findings:

• Generally, consumers equate the term “organic” with having some real meaning or value; however, 70 percent equate it with being “costly to buy.”

• About one quarter (26 percent) of consumers think natural products are not as good as organic products. About one in five consumers (18 percent) think natural products are the same as organic products, while 5 percent believe natural products are better than organic products.

• Most (80 percent) consumers say they would use more organic products if they knew they could get an effective result for no additional cost.

• Sixty percent say they would use organic products if they could be convinced that organic is just as effective as non-organic products.

• A sizable number of consumers (55 percent) say they would like to use organic products more if they could simply find them in a store. A similar number (53 percent) say they would use more organic products if they understood which to buy and how to use them.

• Overall, topics that have the highest level of interest for consumers (topics rated as either “very high” or “high”) are those that involve buying organic products in stores and those that involve growing their own organic products:

– Buying organic products in stores (44 percent)

– Growing your own organic products (36 percent)

– Doing organic lawn care (31 percent)

–Growing non-edible organic flowers and shrubs (29 percent)

The survey asked participants to consider three options for containers: non-plastic, biodegradable containers, returnable or reusable containers, and recyclable plastic containers.

All of the container options were rated highly by consumers, with non-plastic, biodegradable containers rated the highest at 71 percent, edging out the other two options, each of which received a 67 percent importance rating.

Drawing Conclusions

Some of the conclusions we can draw from the survey results are:

1) Consumers need an education on terms.

Consumers in this survey indicated a desire to learn more about organic products and to make them more accessible. More than half of the respondents (53 percent) indicated they would use organic products more if they could understand what to buy and how to use it.

2) Expense is a potential obstacle.

The foundation found that only 34 percent of gardeners seek out organic products “always or sometimes.” Almost half (49 percent) indicated they shop for organic “rarely” or “never.”

The foundation asked what the term “organic” means. The number one response was “costly to buy” with 70 percent of the respondents choosing that option. Sixty-one percent equated organic with “socially responsible.” Eighty percent indicated they would buy organic it promised an effective result at no additional cost.

3) There is a falloff from buying organic rather than growing your own.

Forty-four percent of consumers expressed interest in buying organic products in stores. When it came to growing ornamentals, the interest dropped to 29 percent. This indicates that the importance of being organic drops off when it comes to actual growing practices.

4) Recycling is an attractive way to green your business.

More than two-thirds of respondents to the survey indicated they were interested in returnable containers (76 percent), non-plastic biodegradable containers (71 percent) and recyclable plastic containers (67 percent). Obviously, the interest is there, and this could be a golden opportunity to get customers back into your shop in the July-August window

Reflections

The summary that Will provided is a great help to me. There are many valuable points of information from this survey.

I believe organic can be used when the finished product (i.e., a fruit or vegetable) is sold directly from a grower/retailer to the consumer. In this scenario, everything is completely under the grower’s control with no one between the grower and the consumer.

When you grow an organic plug or an organic vegetable plant in a 3- or 4-inch pot, and then sell it to a retailer or a consumer, they must continue to maintain an organic system or organic means of maturing the plant if they are to produce a truly organic product.

Once the organic transplants are sold to consumers, where will they put them? In their gardens! Are their gardens organic? If not, you have lost all the effort you put into trying to provide organic product to the consumer.

Someone needs to develop an organic system that includes plants, media, containers and fertilizer so that the consumer really has an organically grown plant from start to finish. Organic is not just a word to use to increase the price of the product. It does require more time and effort. It takes more labor and even more space to produce.

Some Parting Thoughts

Our country is in a depression. Costs are important. Those of you who grow organically must consider that higher costs will decrease sales. Look at your production systems and try to structure them to make them competitive with conventional production costs.

Remember in 2050 we will need to produce twice the amount of food we produce now to feed the people on this earth.

Greenhouse growers will be needed more than ever to start the plants to meet the challenge. Starving people will need food whether it is organic or not. I believe there is a great deal of work to do to improve organic systems, and I hope the researchers and growers will make it happen.

Leave a Reply

More From Finance/Operations...
Feature image The 2015 Perennial Plant Of The Year, Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo.’

August 27, 2015

The Perennial Plant Association’s Regional Symposium Will Be This October In Dallas

The Perennial Plant Association plans to hold its Regional Symposium October 5 in Dallas, Texas, in conjunction with the All-America Selections/Home Garden Seed Association's Summer/Fall Summit held October 5 to 8.

Read More
september_grow_rodale institute

August 25, 2015

Hospitals Are Getting Into The Organic Food Business

Growers investing in the organic food movement could serve a growing new area with vegetable transplants and starts, as well as produce, as hospitals begin to prescribe healthy diets and nutrition, and even go so far as to grow their own food. As part of a new phenomenon among progressive hospitals, health professionals are beginning to realize that without health and nutrition, programs and techniques may be done in vain or worse — obsolete. As more patients seeking a healthy diet turn to nutritionists, who recommend sugar-free, alkaline diets to prevent disease and aid in recovery, hospitals recognizing this trend are taking action. St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem, Pa., recently contracted with the nearby Rodale Institute to manage an organic farm, established in 2014. The hospital, part of a six-campus network, aims to provide excellent healthcare, part of which includes educating patients about the benefits of a plant-based, organic diet. […]

Read More

August 21, 2015

Proven Winners Announces Roadshow Events For 2015

Proven Winner's Roadshow Events, held across North America, provide growers and retailers with the opportunity to learn how to grow Proven Winner's newest varieties and receive information about industry trends.

Read More
Latest Stories
AmericanHort logo

August 20, 2015

David Savoia To Serve As AmericanHort’s Interim P…

Following Michael Geary’s announcement that he has resigned as president and CEO of AmericanHort, the association has announced that CFO and Senior Vice President for Operations David Savoia will serve as interim president and CEO while the board conducts a search for a new staff executive. Craig Regelbrugge, the senior vice president for advocacy and research, will support Savoia with the association’s external affairs. Geary announced August 12  that he will be leaving his position after September 30 to serve as CEO of the Society for Marketing Professional Services, an organization dedicated to creating business opportunities in the architecture, engineering and construction industries. “As some of you know, I grew up connected to the horticulture industry so this was not an easy decision for me,” Geary said in an eMail. “I have loved working with our organizations and our talented members, staff and partners. However, my choice to return full time to Washington, D.C. will allow me […]

Read More
Geary-Michael

August 18, 2015

Michael Geary Is Leaving AmericanHort

AmericanHort president and CEO Michael Geary announced last Wednesday that he will be leaving his position at the end of September to serve as CEO of the Society for Marketing Professional Services. “I am writing to share with you that on October 8 I will begin a new professional chapter as CEO of the Society for Marketing Professional Services, an organization dedicated to creating business opportunities in the architecture, engineering and construction industries,” Geary said in an email. His last day with AmericanHort will be Sept. 30, 2015. “As some of you know, I grew up connected to the horticulture industry so this was not an easy decision for me,” he said. “I have loved working with our organizations and our talented members, staff and partners. However, my choice to return full time to Washington, D.C. will allow me to be closer to my family and aging parents and to re-engage with another industry […]

Read More

August 15, 2015

Ball Horticultural Co. Buys Conard-Pyle/Star Roses And …

Ball Horticultural Co. plans to add Conard-Pyle/Star Roses and Plants to its family of breeding and distribution companies, according to a press release dated August 14, which announced the company’s recent acquisition of the famous introducer of Knock Out Roses and other perennials and woody plants to the market. Ball plans to capitalize on the expertise of its Ball Ornamentals woody ornamentals division, as well as Conard-Pyle’s market-leading position as a top rose breeder to strengthen its product line. The sale is scheduled to close by the end of September 2015. Conard-Pyle’s in-house breeding division NovaFlora, along with its intellectual properties and the distribution, production and administration facilities of its wholesale division are also part of the acquisition. NovaFlora is the driving force behind the Star Roses and Plants brand. “Conard-Pyle has been the leader in roses in its market and has been actively diversifying its offering with other woody […]

Read More
cannabis, marijuana plant

August 7, 2015

Big Banks A Step Closer To Financing Cannabis — Or Not

A key Senate Appropriations Committee passed a bill on July 23 that allows the nation's capital to establish regulated medical marijuana stores and lets banks provide financial services to state legalized marijuana dispensaries.

Read More

July 30, 2015

Spread Your Risk Beyond Spring Sales [Opinion]

Growers who participated in Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Spring Crops Recap Survey said they have had enough of the uncertainty that the weather brings. They said it’s time to build up sales in other seasons like fall so we’re not so dependent on spring. As a couple of wholesale growers, both from the Southeast, very eloquently stated, our industry has mastered squeezing everything we can out of the spring season. And while this year happened to be a very successful one, thanks to the improving economy and elevated consumer confidence, they said, “now is no time to celebrate.” “Spring is still Christmas in the horticulture industry, but we have done such a good job focusing on spring that we have neglected other seasons,” one grower said. “Having so many eggs in the spring basket is dangerous. Fall will never be what spring is, but having a solid second season is in […]

Read More
Berns_Roberto Lopez_Purdue6

July 22, 2015

Cultivate’15 Greenhouse Learning Tour Showcases G…

Growers took advantage of the Greenhouse Learning tour held Saturday, July 11 at Cultivate'15 to see the strategies and technology two successful growing operations are using to tackle production challenges and come out ahead of the game.

Read More
thermoflor

June 16, 2015

Philip Schaafsma To Represent Thermoflor In The U.S.

Philip Schaafsma is a new sales representative for Thermoflor, a company with a lot of experience building garden centers worldwide. The history of the Dutch construction company Thermoflor goes all the way back to 1877. Since then, the company has been through a lot of changes, from simple conservatories to complex glass and steel turnkey projects. With a new sales representative, Thermoflor is well equipped to service the American market. Previously, Petitti Garden Center (Avon, Ohio), Chuck Hafner (Syracuse, N.Y.), Jacob’s Garden (Ottowa Lake, Mich.), Hicks Nurseries (Westbury, N.Y.) and Holes (Alberta, Ca.) were all built by Thermoflor. After a period of absence, the company is now  represented in the U.S. and Canada by Schaafsma, who has more than 40 years of experience in retail lawn and garden, greenhouse growing and the floral industry, and is a former board member of the Garden Centers of America. Schaafsma is the former owner […]

Read More

June 15, 2015

Hortica Insurance To Become Member Of Sentry Insurance …

Upon completion and approval of an affiliation agreement, Hortica Insurance (Florists' Mutual Insurance Company) will become a member of the Sentry Insurance Group, based in Stevens Point, Wis. As a member of the Sentry Insurance Group, Hortica keeps its name and brand and will continue doing business from its current headquarters in Edwardsville, Ill.

Read More
Cal-Poly fields

June 2, 2015

Cal-Poly Students Seek Continued Industry Support To Sa…

Agriculture students and faculty at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, want industry members to continue to stand with them in their effort to preserve Class 1 agricultural land from being repurposed. The university recently released an update to its Master Plan that indicates that almost all of its orchards, horticulture facilities and field sites could be repurposed for buildings, including residential and/or recreational space. According to Joel Leonard of Students For Agriculture, an organization of Cal-Poly students in favor of saving the land, the Master Planning Committee will be meeting over the summer to form a final version of its plan and present it once more to the public in the fall, before it is submitted for final approval to the California Board of Trustees. Students For Agriculture’s goal in the meantime is to increase awareness and rally industry supporters to continue to send their input to the planning committee. Visit studentsforag.com to see more […]

Read More
Cal-Poly fields

May 27, 2015

Cal-Poly Students And Faculty Ask Industry To Help Save…

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, has released an update to its Master Plan that indicates that almost all of its orchards, horticulture facilities and field sites could be repurposed for buildings, including residential, and/or recreational space. According to a letter from Scott Steinmaus, the horticulture and crop science department head, the proposed changes directly affect the current orchard plantings and other long term plans for the department. The department is committed to making sure that its facilities remain invaluable teaching environments that enable its students to learn about crop, fruit and horticulture production, food safety and pest protection, in addition to providing sites for externally funded research projects that benefit the industry. Industry members are invited to submit comments to the university. According to Steinmaus, a recent eMail to the Cal-Poly community from the university president indicates that all of the input gathered through the end of May will be studied by the planning […]

Read More
people-of-Battlefield

May 13, 2015

Battlefield Farms Receives MPS-A Qualification

Battlefield Farms, Inc., in Rapidan, Va., has been awarded the MPS-A qualification after becoming a participant for MPS-ABC in 2010. After four years of showing effort and improvement, the company has been awarded the qualification.

Read More
Barry_Sturdivant_columnpic

May 8, 2015

How To Survive Succession Planning And Resolve Conflic…

If you work in agriculture, you most likely work with family-owned businesses. This is especially true within the greenhouse industry. I’m fortunate to work for a company that specializes in financing and supporting such businesses. Family-owned businesses often have a level of commitment and support that helps during lean times. This is important for a company exposed to seasonality and events that are sometimes beyond management’s control. Business owners and management are constantly looking for solutions to the unique issues faced by these small but complex businesses. Specifically, how these issues affect the transition from one generation to the next. There are many family enterprise success stories, cases of harmony, health and longevity. Yet it’s no secret that family businesses can struggle with governance, leadership transitions and even survival. According to the Family Business Institute, only 30 percent of family businesses last into the second generation, 12 percent remain viable […]

Read More

April 30, 2015

North Creek Nurseries Welcomes Nikki Drake As New Finan…

Nikki Drake will fill the role of new financial administrator at North Creek Nurseries, with responsibility for the accounting department. She will also serve on the strategic planning committee.

Read More
Andy Huntington Pleasant View

April 29, 2015

Pleasant View Gardens Promotes Andy Huntington to Natio…

Pleasant View Gardens recently announced that Andy Huntington will be the company’s National Sales Manager. Huntington, who has years of horticulture industry experience, will oversee national territory and inside sales departments, while fostering strong partnerships with customers. “Our relationships with customers are central to all that we do at Pleasant View,” Huntington says. “In my new role, I am excited to work with a broader base of broker, grower and retail partners to understand their business needs. Pleasant View’s goal is to be so in tune with our customers that we are able to anticipate their problems before they arise.” Huntington has a history of growing sales and forming long-lasting relationships with a diverse customer base. For the past two years, he has been working as a territory account manager for Pleasant View Gardens, responsible for young plant liner sales in New England and New York. Prior to that, Huntington was […]

Read More
PittMoss on Shark Tank

April 22, 2015

PittMoss Wins On Shark Tank

Mont Handley, president and CEO of PittMoss, appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank on April 17 to try to get the “sharks” to invest in his peat moss alternative. Three investors from the TV show contributed $600,000 to PittMoss for a 35 percent stake in the company. Check out this clip from ABC’s website in which Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary and Robert Herjavec discuss getting on board with the product. PittMoss is an alternative to sphagnum peat moss, made up of a mix of proprietary additives and recycled paper rescued from landfill space. Handley founded the Pittsburgh-based company in 1994. What started as a small experiment grew into a full-fledged business with the help of funding provided by an EPA SBIR grant and Pittsburgh’s Idea Foundry. Today, PittMoss is available to commercial greenhouses and nurseries from Michigan to Maine to North Carolina, with plans to grow. To learn more, visit PittMoss’ website, or check it […]

Read More
Syngenta logo

April 15, 2015

Syngenta Names Chris Freeman Senior Key Account Manager…

Chris Freeman is the new senior key account manager for Syngenta Flowers, Home & Garden's Commercial Sales business in the Americas, effective March 2015. Freeman, who joined Syngenta in 2006, carries more than 25 years of experience in the agriculture and floriculture business.

Read More
Lake Buchanan_LCRA

April 10, 2015

USDA Designates Areas Of West And Southwest As Drought …

The ongoing drought has resulted in disaster area designations in counties across nine Western and Southwestern states, including Texas, where some reservoirs are at or near historically low levels.

Read More

April 9, 2015

Altman Plants’ Online Cactus Shop Shows Strong Sa…

Altman Plants recently opened its new Cactus Shop, an online retail store that sells a variety of cactus and succulents. The store is a take-off of Altman’s original wholesale business, as the company started as a mail order catalog.

Read More