The price of organic food
Helen Browning - 28 September 2011
One of the key pillars of our refreshed strategy is ‘Good Food for All’. By this we mean that we are committed to ensure that organic, seasonal, healthy food is accessible to everyone.
For many people, one of the biggest perceived barriers to accessibility of organic food is the price. If we are to be successful we need to tackle issues like the organic price premium and other barriers to access head on. One aspect of this is to ensure that fair prices are paid for organic food according to the cost of production not as an automatic premium.
We also want to examine the cost of organic food and challenge people’s assumptions that it will automatically be more expensive. As an example, last week we conducted our own price survey of an average shopping basket, at Tesco, Asda and Sainsburys, including staples such as milk, bread, eggs, mince, cheese, apples and carrots.
We found that some organic items such as olive oil, pasta and baking potatoes were the same price or less than non-organic, even without special offers, and overall an average organic shopping basket was only 4.4% more expensive than a non-organic basket of equivalent products with offers included. Perhaps not quite as expensive as some of us may have expected.
As it is Organic September there has been lots of promotional activity around organic products in the last few weeks. If you don’t include the effect of these offers, the organic products are up to 15.9% more expensive – a premium for sure but again perhaps less then you might have guessed. What’s more, previous research by the Organic Trade Board [Does organic always mean more expensive?, Feb 2010] found that, compared against premium non-organic brands, the organic option is often more affordable.
The bottom line is that organic food is only 4-16% more expensive when compared to own brand supermarket food and it is significantly less expensive when compared with well known household brands such as Warburtons, Kelloggs and Lurpak. In this supposed ‘age of austerity’ it seems that people are continuing to spend more on premium and luxury food items when they could actually choose organic for less. This survey is the beginning of a more regular look at pricing structures which we hope will demonstrate the increasing affordability of organic food.
Finally, as we come to the end of Organic September, lots of organic businesses and supermarkets are still offering great deals on organic products – so if you usually ignore the organic options because you think it’s too expensive now is a great time to give it a go.
Helen Browning is the Soil Association's Chief Executive, and also is an organic farmer - she runs a 1,350 acre organic livestock and arable farm in Wiltshire. Her sausages and bacon can be found in the supermarkets, and her versatile team also run the village pub! Previously Director of External Affairs at the National Trust, Helen is also chair of the Food Ethics Council and was awarded an OBE in 1998 for services to organic farming.