“Everybody wants to eat organic”, by Silvia Zucconi (IT)

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SANA hosted, as every year, the Nomisma's Consumer Survey, tracking the identikit of the Italian "bio - buyer" and his style of consumption.  By the end of 2007, the starting year of the crisis, the domestic demand for consumption goods in Italy collapsed, due to the lower earning capacity. And the reconfiguration of the consumption styles also touched the food sector (16% of overall expenditure), but not giving everything up: the Italians started to spend less for food and drinks, but they did not renounce to safeguard their welfare at the table, consuming until the end what they bought and reducing food waste. At the same time, spending on food  became more selective, without setting quality aside. The selection criteria for foodstuffs fostered, along with the price, the choice of products of clear Italian origin: an Italian out three makes his/her choice looking first of all at products “made in Italy”,  and the product category that, more than others, is an exemplification of the search for well-being at the table is organic. Organic is no more a niche segment, but a production model of success: while the Italian economy is struggling, organic flies. The value of organic sales in supermarkets has, since 2005, grown steadily: in a decade, it grew by 220%.

The latest available figures speak for themselves: retail sales in the first five months of 2014 marked a surprising + 17%. Supermarkets are not, however, the main channel for organic: they cover "only" 27% of sales in value of the 2.3 billion domestic sales made in 2013. The specialty stores (1,277 points of sale in Italy, mainly located in the center-north) are the first channel for organic, with sales amounting, in 2013, to more than 1 billion euro (46% of the total, with an increase of +12%).  

But also the number of families buying organic products increased. The share of families that, in the last 12 months, bought, at least in one occasion, an organic product, rose from 53% in 2012 to 59% in 2013. The positive trend is certainly favored by the availability of organic products. Almost all product categories are today present in the supermarkets, which offer, along with the big brands, also their own private organic labels at competitive prices.

But how to explain this success for organic products? The propensity to purchase organic products is higher in families with a higher income and with particular dietary habits.

But the motivation to purchase is another factor that pushes up consumption: the desire of safe food stimulates interest, especially if the family includes a child in pre-school age (68%), and one of the success factors of organic is the appreciation for the additional guarantees offered by the brand, as well as the perceived quality, higher than the conventional product. 70% of consumers believe that organic products have a quality higher than conventional products. Thus organic is an expression of a “Made in Italy” of quality.

What trends can be expected for organic in the next few years? The estimated expenditure of  families have a positive tendency; to this we can add the ability of the sector to attract new consumers. 32% of those who do not buy today has the propensity for experimentation.

If among the factors of optimism we include the fact that the entire Italian organic chain is in good shape, very few clouds appear on the horizon. Surfaces, producers, selling points, canteens, all indicators show a tendency to growth. And the creation of a uniform distribution offer throughout the country is certainly a factor that could support further expansion. The outcome of the debate on the new European organic Regulation (in force since 2017), that will introduce changes to improve support to the growth of the sector,  will also be crucial. 


NOMISMA Consumer Survey 2014


NOMISMA, 6 September 2014






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