MADRID – More and more consumers consider sustainable products important. However, their supply is still scarce and they are expensive: on average 54% more than conventional A-brand products and three times more than non-organic private label products.
This is evident from research carried out by Spanish consumer organisation OCU where they searched for versions with sustainable certification of 140 products in the shopping cart. The researchers compared prices for 34 food and drugstore products.
There are more and more products with organic, fair trade or sustainability certification (MSC, ASC, GOTS…). However, they are not available at most points of sale and if they are, they are more expensive.
The price of “organic” in 22 supermarket chains
Prices for 34 families of food, medicine and cosmetic products in 22 supermarket chains were collected. Moreover, the products were grouped into three categories:
- private label
- organic, fair trade or sustainability certification*
*OCU only focuses on certified products, because they give consumers guarantees about their production process.
The main national supermarket chains were selected for the study. Furthermore, six chains were added that specialise in the organic market:
- Espacio Orgánico
- Herbolario Navarro
- Planeta Huerta
More and more “bio” products
OCU identified from the outset that 85% of the 140 products analysed in the supermarkets’ study are labelled “organic” versions in one of the 22 online chains analysed. However, most are not even available in half of the supermarkets. The easiest-to-find organic products are extra virgin olive oil, natural yoghurt, whole milk (more than skimmed milk), rice drink, chocolate, coffee (mainly naturally ground), eggs and cooked vegetables.
Good variety of organic products at these supermarkets
Alcampo, El Corte Inglés, Carrefour and Eroski have a good variety of organic products, including their private label. This allows them to offer a shopping basket with at least half of their products certified organic, fair trade or sustainable (MSC, ASC, GOTS…). A level is already comparable to that of chains specialising in organic products, such as the 6 listed above. Furthermore, it should be noted that these chains offer a greater wealth of small, local and diverse brands. That is essential for a sustainable market.
No organic product at Mercadona
Other national food chains such as Gadis, Condis, Consum, Aldi, Caprabo or BM offer 25% or more products in the basic basket with organic certificates. While MAS, Lidl and Dia have at least 15%. Surprisingly, Mercadona still does not offer its customers any product with an organic certificate.
Organic products are much more expensive
Organic fresh food costs on average twice as much as the non-organic variety. For packaged foods, the prices of the organic products analysed are on average 51% more expensive than those of the leading brand and 154% higher than those of the distribution brand.
Biggest price differences in drugstore products
We find the largest price differences for drugstore products, as organic products are on average 58% more expensive than products from leading brands and 334% more than products from distribution brands.
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Many supermarkets already have organic white brands such as Carrefour Eco Planet, Eroski Bio, Milbona bio (Lidl), Cien bio (Lidl), Gutbio (Aldi), Alcampo Bio, El Corte Inglés Bio, Consum eco, Choose Eco (Ifa) or Onder other Veritas. That is good news for consumers because although these organic products are still more expensive than their non-organic equivalents, their price difference is halved compared to the organic A-brands.
Organic distribution brands
OCU compares the prices of 13 “pairs of products” of the same distribution brand, in their conventional and organic versions. Consequently, it verifies that the ecological versions are always more expensive:
- +210% Lidl Bellarom ground coffee 250g
- +119% Carrefour natural yoghurt 4x 125g
- +46% El Corte Inglès fresh eggs 6 pieces
- +45% Día Láctea whole milk 1l
- +39% IFA Eliges Gadis chickpeas 1kg
- +33% Consum Extra Virgin olive oil 750 ml
- +26% Eroski dark chocolate 74% 100g
- +12% Aldi butter 250g
Why is organic more expensive?
The industry that produces conventional products has been criticised for selling at lower prices in exchange for externalising environmental costs, reducing biodiversity and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, organic production is part of the solution: consuming “less and better” means meeting our needs within the limits of the earth, and choosing better products for the planet and us. But doing things right comes at a price, according to OCU.
Organic farming has lower productivity because it requires more labour. Furthermore, soil fertility should be maintained by rotating crops and avoiding the use of chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilisers. Organic farming takes more breeding time for some species, requires more land or reduces the number of animals in the same area. Feeding grass and grains yields less than ready-to-eat feed.
In cleaning and cosmetics, the cost of investing in innovation is important to bring good quality products to the market without harmful ingredients. The higher price of some of the raw materials used also has an influence. In addition, for products certified as “organic”, the certification costs must be added up. This guarantees the consumer that at least some aspects of environmental sustainability are covered. The result is that organic products have a price that is not always within the reach of the consumer. It is therefore important that government policies strongly support sustainable production and consumption.
OCU asks for support for eco-consumption
Sustainability is a necessity, not a luxury. Therefore, to make the market for sustainable products accessible, a wide, easily recognisable and affordable range is needed. OCU asks institutions and companies:
OCU asks for a quota for sustainable products.
Sustainability labels should evolve from partial eco-labels to a European sustainability index with a scale for environmental, social and economic aspects that, in addition to product characteristics, take into account the production method, proximity, seasonal production and corporate responsibility.
At an affordable price
OCU calls for a super-reduced VAT rate of 4% for the most sustainable products for daily use, government policies that strongly support sustainable production and consumption, consumer education to promote a sustainable lifestyle and an adequate price signal that invites to buy sustainable products.
The change is with you
Consumers can make the biggest contribution by reducing the consumption of meat and dairy products and buying these products organically.
- Prevent food waste by buying a little at a time.
- Prefer seasonal foods.
- Choose local and nearby products to reduce the carbon footprint.
- Try to buy organic products, as they guarantee a more respectful way of producing
- Simplify your purchase. For example, use a single all-purpose cleaner.
- Avoid overpacked products. Buy unpackaged products and bring your containers and bags to the store so you don’t have to use plastic.
- Join consumer groups or cooperatives to buy directly from the producer.
- Grow your food, also in the city (pots, urban gardens…).
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