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...

April 11, 2017

Jerry Halamuda of Color Spot Nurseries Retires

The co-founder of Color Spot Nurseries has retired, effective immediately, and has named a replacement.

Read More
Socius Webinar

March 30, 2017

Webinar to Offer Tips on Properly Managing Your Business for Growth

“How to Survive and Thrive: New Revenue Building Tools for Growers,” presented by Socius, takes place on April 6.

Read More

March 21, 2017

How Greenhouse Vegetable Growers Can Prepare for a Product Recall

The United Fresh Produce Association is holding a Recall Ready Workshop in April that is designed to help growers properly manage a recall, from liability to communications.

Read More
Latest Stories

April 11, 2017

Jerry Halamuda of Color Spot Nurseries Retires

The co-founder of Color Spot Nurseries has retired, effective immediately, and has named a replacement.

Read More
Socius Webinar

March 30, 2017

Webinar to Offer Tips on Properly Managing Your Busines…

“How to Survive and Thrive: New Revenue Building Tools for Growers,” presented by Socius, takes place on April 6.

Read More

March 21, 2017

How Greenhouse Vegetable Growers Can Prepare for a Prod…

The United Fresh Produce Association is holding a Recall Ready Workshop in April that is designed to help growers properly manage a recall, from liability to communications.

Read More

March 14, 2017

Expanded Customer Footprint, E-Commerce, Succession Key…

Costa Farms' acquisition of indoor foliage producer Delray Plants rocked the industry, but the story behind Delray Plants' sale is the same as for many growers struggling with succession planning. For Costa Farms, the strategic purchase expands its customer footprint and also fast tracks its foray into e-commerce.

Read More

March 10, 2017

Costa Farms Expands With Purchase of Indoor Houseplant …

Costa Farms annnounced March 10 that it has acquired Delray Plants, one of the leaders in the indoor houseplant industry. The two operations are committed to the same values, principles, and goals to grow the industry, and will fit well together to accomplish this, say Randy Gilde, CEO of Delray Plants, and Joche Smith, CEO of Costa Farms.

Read More
Ken and Deena Altman

March 7, 2017

Altman Plants in Escrow to Purchase EuroAmerican Propag…

Ken Altman, a co-owner of Altman Plants based in Vista, CA, has confirmed that the operation is currently in escrow to purchase EuroAmerican Propagators, the Bonsall, CA-based young plant and finished plant grower that filed Chapter 7 Bankruptcy on Jan. 23, 2017. Ken and Deena Altman are co-owners of Altman Plants and The Plug Connection, along with their son Matthew, who has recently bought into the family business. The 55 acres of land and all of the facilities on it, which were previously owned by Jerry Church, a partner in EuroAmerican Propagators, are part of the purchase agreement currently in escrow, Altman says. However, it would not be absorbed by Altman Plants, which in 2016 was number 3 on Greenhouse Grower’s Top 100 Growers list with more than 11 million square feet of environmentally controlled greenhouse production, 62 acres of shade production, and 400 acres of outdoor field production. Altman Plants’ property […]

Read More
EuroAmerican Propagators Greenhouses

February 14, 2017

Suppliers Comment on Plant Genetics’ Fate After EuroAme…

Since the operation’s bankruptcy filing on January 23, 2017, suppliers associated with EuroAmerican Propagators have updated Greenhouse Grower on what the operation’s bankruptcy means for them – and how it will impact grower customers.

Read More
Stephanie Whitehouse

January 17, 2017

Stephanie Whitehouse Takes Her Passion for Plants to Di…

Stephanie Whitehouse, who has spent the last seven years as the Sales and Marketing Director for Peace Tree Farm in Kintnersville, PA, recently joined Dickman Farms Greenhouse and Garden Center in Auburn, NY, as the company’s new Retail General Manager.

Read More
Laura Drotleff

December 6, 2016

Are You Driving Young Growers Away? [Opinion]

In a time when the industry is facing a critical shortage of both labor and skilled, educated growers, it's important that grower operations don't unwittingly turn candidates off to a career at their business or in the industry in general. Take a closer look at your hiring practices to ensure you are being inclusive and not breaking any laws.

Read More
Trays move on an overhead conveyor to the end of the production line, where workers carefully pack the cleaned, sized, graded, counted and sorted Calla tubers

November 29, 2016

Texas Judge Halts Overtime Rule; Here’s What It Means F…

According to Craig Regelbrugge at AmericanHort, the injunction against the overtime rule is welcome news for horticulture.

Read More
Craig Regelbrugge, senior vice president of AmericanHort - Feature image

October 25, 2016

Contribute To HRI To Help Honor Industry Advocate Craig…

In honor of Craig Regelbrugge's extraordinary contributions to the horticultural industry, AmericanHort and the Horticultural Research Initiative created a special HRI endowment fund in his name: "The Craig Regelbrugge - Advocates for Horticulture Fund."

Read More
Lucas Greenhouses Shipping

October 6, 2016

Greenhouse Shipping Costs Down, But Concerns Remain

Lower gas prices have led to lower shipping costs for some growers, but many continue to seek out ways to become more efficient.

Read More
Pansy ‘Cool Wave Blue Skies’ (Wave)

September 20, 2016

PanAmerican Seed Settles Alleged Trade Sanction Violati…

PanAmerican Seed, a division of Ball Horticultural Co., has been charged with violating trade sanctions to Iran over a number of years. According to a release from the U.S. Treasury department, PanAmerican Seed made 48 indirect sales of seeds to two Iranian distributors. The company shipped the seed to consignees based in countries in Europe and the Middle East. PanAmerican Seed’s customers then arranged for the re-exportation of the seeds to Iran. The release states that the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) determined PanAmerican Seed did not voluntarily self-disclose the alleged violations to OFAC, constituting an egregious case. “We believe that the settlement was extreme; however the alternative was to litigate with the U.S. government, which would take months, if not years,” says Todd Billings, Chief Financial Officer for Ball Horticultural Co. When asked what Ball Horticultural Co. has done to ensure that violations to trade sanctions do not […]

Read More
young-plants

September 20, 2016

The Top Young Plant Growers, And Four Critical Challeng…

In Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Top Young Plant Growers Survey, growers discuss the latest challenges and opportunities in fulfillment, shipping, labor, and crop protection.

Read More
Cavicchio Greenhouses

September 6, 2016

Cavicchio Greenhouses Wins Inaugural Sustainability Awa…

The Sudbury, MA, growing operation sustains more than 250 acres of annuals, perennials, and nursery stock, with a number of practices to mitigate its impact on the environment.

Read More
Charlie Hall Feature Image

September 6, 2016

10 Insights From Charlie Hall’s Green Industry Economic…

With the uncertain current economic climate, Texas A&M economist Charlie Hall says now may be the perfect time to invest — as long as you do it smartly.

Read More
Penn State Plant Bud

August 23, 2016

AmericanHort Is Helping Plant Importers Adjust To New R…

A report from Craig Regelbrugge at AmericanHort says the government is implementing a streamlined system for imports, in which all required data will be submitted electronically through a single window.

Read More
Plug Connection Assortment

August 9, 2016

AmericanHort’s Plug And Cutting Conference Will Feature…

This year’s conference, which takes place Sept. 19-21 in Carlsbad, CA, features discussions on water, pest and disease control, and production inputs, as well as a biocontrols workshop and tour of local cuttings facilities.

Read More