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...

May 22, 2015

Nexus Greenhouses Is Optimistic For Expansion Into New Markets

Cheryl Longtin and Mike Porter, who own Nexus Corporation, say they were excited to attend the grand opening of Gotham Greens’ new structure atop the new Whole Foods grocery store in the Gowanus neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., when it opened in December 2013. The project is just one example of some of the new and expanding markets that Nexus Corporation has expanded into over the past few years. Jeff Warschauer, vice president of sales for Nexus, says the company has enjoyed getting to know and working with the founders of Gotham Greens, Viraj Puri and Eric Haley, and Jennifer Nelkin Frymark, the chief agriculture officer, on their innovative approach to business. “They are very excited and work hard internally – just great people,” he says. “From our perspective, it’s great to see that excitement and vision. The employees there are happy and there’s no turnover; they’re only adding new people […]

Read More
Farwest2015

May 20, 2015

2015 Farwest Show Announces Second Annual Equipment Innovation Day

The second annual Equipment Innovation Day will be Tuesday, Aug. 25, prior to the 2015 Farwest show, which will be August 27-29 in Portland, Ore. Equipment Innovation Day, which was enthusiastically received in 2014, offers a real-time opportunity to see new heavy and automated nursery equipment in action. The demonstrations take place in manufacturing and nursery settings, adding value to the showcase. Attendees will be able to talk with participating manufacturers and learn first-hand from innovative growers who use the equipment in daily operations. The day-long event will be held at the main manufacturing plant of GK Machines, Inc., Donald, Ore. Further demonstrations of field equipment will take place at the nearby nursery of A&R Spada Farms, LLC. Bus travel to and from the event is planned, starting at and returning to the Oregon Convention Center. Attendees are welcome to provide their own travel to and from the site. Preregistration is required. The cost […]

Read More
Bee On Flower

May 20, 2015

White House Task Force Releases Pollinator Health Strategy

An interagency Pollinator Health Task Force commissioned by President Obama released its “Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators” on May 19. The strategy, released in accordance with the Presidential Memorandum issued last June, is accompanied by a Pollinator Research Action Plan, which outlines needs and priority actions to better understand pollinator losses and improve pollinator health. The recommended actions will be supported by a coordination of existing federal research efforts and accompanied by a request to Congress for additional resources to respond to losses in pollinator populations. Pages 47 through 52 specifically address pesticides and pollinators. The report calls out plant production, native plants, mosquito control and all urban uses in its Pollinator Action Plan. RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) says it supports the goals of improving pollinator health and habitat contained in the White House Pollinator Task Force’s release of its National […]

Read More
Latest Stories
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
Dummen

April 8, 2015

Dümmen Group Welcomes Jim Devereux And Andrew Konicki T…

Dümmen group recently announced the addition of Jim Devereux and Andrew Konicki to its team. They are the newest members of the Key Account and Broker Support team for Dümmen, and will be responsible for building, developing and maintaining current broker and grower customer relationships.

Read More
Gov._Jerry_Brown_California

April 8, 2015

California Institutes First Ever Statewide Mandatory Wa…

California Gov. Jerry Brown announced April 1 that, for the first time in state history, action will be taken to implement mandatory water restrictions, with the ultimate goal of reducing water usage by 25 percent. As Californians are pushed to conserve more, growers will need to think about how demand for products will be affected.

Read More
DNA-logo

March 31, 2015

DNA Green Group Will Acquire Rijnplant

DNA Green Group and Riknplant have finalized DNA Green Group's acquisition of Rijnplant, meaning that the breeding and propagation activities in pot and cut anthurium, bougainvillea and heliconia will transfer to DNA Green Group.

Read More
AFE scholarship_Ryan Dickson

March 25, 2015

AFE Educational Grant And Scholarship Application Deadl…

Apply now for American Floral Endowment (AFE) scholarships or educational grants. Applications can be found online. For educational grants for 2015-2016, applications must be submitted no later than June 1. Scholarship applications are due May 1. AFE will award $40,000 in scholarships for 2015.

Read More

March 23, 2015

UF/IFAS Appoints Joseph Albano As Director Of Mid-Flori…

The University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) has a new directors for its Mid-Florida Research and Education Center (REC) on Apopka, Fla. The role has been filled by Joseph Albano, a research horticulturist from the U.S. Department of Agriculture with more than 25 years of experience.

Read More

March 17, 2015

Pike Nurseries Implements Employee Stock Ownership Plan

Independent garden retailer Pike Nurseries has announced it will become an employee-owned company. Pike Nurseries management has combined with its sister corporation in California, Armstrong Garden Centers, to operate under an established Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).

Read More
GrowIt! App Wins Gold At Design100 2014 US Mobile & App Design Awards

March 10, 2015

GrowIt! Mobile App Now Available For Android

The mobile app GrowIt! Garden Socially can now be used by gardeners with Android-based smartphones. Now available on the Google Play Market, GrowIt! helps users find plants to fit their lifestyle and connect them with other local gardeners.

Read More

March 4, 2015

Second Annual GreenhouseConnect Will Bring Growers and …

Following a successful inaugural event in Tampa last fall, Greenhouse Grower has announced the dates of its second annual GreenhouseConnect: October 26-29, 2015. Representatives of an expected two dozen leading greenhouse operations from across the U.S. will join senior-level suppliers at Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego for several days of one-on-one strategic meetings, a growers-only roundtable, informational sessions and a variety of networking events.

Read More

March 4, 2015

Maryland Green Industry Associations Unite

The Maryland Nursery and Landscape Association recently announced that it is expanding its reach to include the greenhouse industry, meaning it has become The Maryland Nursery, Landscape and Greenhouse Association (MNLGA). The change comes as a result of the planned dissolution of the former Maryland Greenhouse Growers Association and the invitation for those members to join the existing and renamed association.

Read More
IPPS Sharing Plant Production Knowledge Globally Logo

February 25, 2015

International Plant Propagators Western Region Sets Ann…

The annual meet for the International Plant Propagators' Society (IPPS) Western Region has been set for this September. It will take place September 23 to 26 in Modesto, Calif., and will include learning sessions, tours to local nurseries, a research poster display and poster presentations, various networking opportunities and an awards banquet to close the event.

Read More