The sales of organic products in Poland has been growing by 20% every year. Experts foresee this will be the quickest-developing segment of foodstuffs, but so far we are still lagging behind Western Europe. Organic foods comprise 0.5% of the food market in Poland. In Western European countries, this percentage reaches 2-8%. Annually, a statistical Pole spends 7 euros on organic products, while expenditures of a German amounts to 100, and of a Dane – up to 200 euros annually. This is partially connected with the lower purchasing power of the Polish people. What can we do to accelerate this trend?
A bit of history
In the West, the boom for organic products started as early as the 1960s. It was inspired by the views of Rudolf Steiner and fascination with biodynamic farming. The fad for regional products came much later, as a consequence of the EU policy regulating food overproduction in Europe and emphasizing quality of products. The EU extended its protection to high-quality products – both organic and traditional ones. That was the time when the first food quality systems would come into being: the Euro-leaf for organic foods, as well as traditional specialty guaranteed, protected geographic indication, and protected designation of origin for regional and traditional foods. Systemic solutions were a market-stimulating factor. In the 2000s, national food quality systems started developing in Poland, to later become notified in the EU and recognized by the Minister of Agriculture.
When a trend becomes a mass phenomenon
Trends are affected, on the one hand, by such factors as cultural aspirations, encompassing responsibility for the world, naturality and individuality, and on the other hand, by psychological needs of a human: pleasure, perfection and the need of belonging. Contacts between these points create cultural tensions which may be expressed as sustainability, authenticity and community. The ecological and regional trends are deeply rooted in these factors. This enables the offer of organic and regional products, referencing both cultural aspirations and psychological needs of a consumer, to become a mass phenomenon of a lasting nature.
Organic & regional products
The citizens’ growing interest in health, healthy lifestyle and healthy nutrition can be observed in Poland in the recent years. The will to purchase organic products is currently declared by 40% of consumers. This percentage is higher in the subcategory of young people who pay more attention to the composition or origin of food, the type of packaging and the environmental impact of production. As many as 9% of Poles thoroughly read labels to check whether the list of ingredients is not overly extensive and whether it does not contain any undesirable items.
Although the share of organic foods in the Polish food market stands at the level of just 0.5% (for comparison, the level in Switzerland is 7.1%), the organic food market is recording a dynamic double-digit increase – approx. 20% per annum. The Polish consumers’ spending on organic products still differs from the level of the EU countries. This seems to be caused by the low purchasing power of the Polish people, as well as by insufficient awareness in this regard. The role of an opinion leader educating the Polish society was consequently assumed by international trade chains aiming at dissemination of knowledge of organic and regional products – healthy, safe, natural and top-quality. In order to satisfy the consumer’s needs, it is necessary that trade chains cooperate with manufacturers. Cooperation with large international companies enables farmers to increase their scale of production, to distribute their products on the domestic and international markets, as well as to constantly improve their production standards (responsible production) and product quality (standardization, certification). Trade chains actively support the transformation process of Polish agriculture and the transition from conventional methods of cultivation and animal husbandry to organic farming. As shown by the data from the Ministry of Agriculture, the number of organic food manufacturers has increased from 3,700 in 2004 to the imposing number of 24,000 last year. The value of exports of Polish products, including organic and regional ones, through foreign branches of the chains stands at the level of PLN 10 billion per annum.
Challenges facing the trade
If the market of organic and regional products is to keep developing dynamically, the trade sector has to face many challenges. Trade chains have to exercise exceptional thoroughness on a daily basis when selecting contractors and care for constant expansion of the offer, exclusively with top-quality, natural, safe products pursuant to the philosophy of sustainable development, as well as ensuring full traceability. Other challenges include: appropriate display of organic and regional products on dedicated store shelves, proper marking, ensuring wide availability of such products in all trade establishments and in online channels, ensuring an optimal price for customers, as well as efficient communication.
An important task of international trade chains, as leaders of opinion, is to inspire the market and customers, constant improvement of the awareness of Polish consumers, education in the area of healthy lifestyle and nutrition, as well as formation of pro-ecological attitudes. Thanks to the actions taken by trade chains, the gap between us and the Western European countries could disappear in 1-2 years to come.
The President Of The Polish Organization Of Commerce and Distribution (POHiD)
1 The article has been prepared on the basis of conclusions from the discussion panel “The Development of Local and Ecological Products”, held in Warsaw on 18 November 2019 as a part of the 1st edition of the Modern Distribution Congress, organized by the Polish Organization of Commerce and Distribution. Website of the event: https://dystrybucja.pl