FORT WORTH, Texas — Retailers and manufacturers of organic and natural products are wise to be honest and authentic in their approach to the products because “when you look at who's buying these products, they are very discerning consumers and they want to relate to brands they buy,” said Maryellen Molyneaux, president of Natural Marketing Institute, speaking this month at the Natural & Organic Foods Efficient Program Planning Session here.
The customers who shop organic tend to be educated consumers. “They have a lot of knowledge, and that knowledge base is being confirmed by science,” Molyneaux said in a session called “Why It's Important for Retailers to be Authentic in the Natural/Organic Marketplace.”
Among the matters of clear importance to these savvy consumers are chemicals and antibiotics.
And these consumers are discerning about brands. “Some brands are more authentic and some aren't, and manufacturers and retailers need to be cautious,” Molyneaux said. However, she continued, while manufacturers only need to be sure they are presenting an authentic product in a way to which consumers relate, retailers have a stickier challenge of putting out a message about organics and natural products without casting a negative light on other products on their shelves. “The retailer has to be careful with the message — it has to be crafted.”
Baby boomers and Generation X-ers are a large segment of organics consumers, although, Molyneaux pointed out, Gen Y understands the product but doesn't have the money yet. But, she emphasized, the organics and natural food consumer is less a demographic target than a psychographic one — it's more about mind-set than age or income. The consumers to please are what NMI has identified as Well Beings (25% of the United States general population), who are focused on health in all aspects of their lives; and Food Actives (19%), who look primarily to diet and exercise to maintain their health. Organics users also display varying levels of commitment, from Devoteds (9.1%) to Temperates (17.9%) and Dabblers (13.8%). Although a smaller group than Temperates, Devoteds are likely to spend more, Molyneaux said, and they tend to be store and brand loyal.
Molyneaux is watching with interest the effect of the entry of Wal-Mart Stores into the organic and natural food marketplace. “We very much feel this is a watershed year,” she said. The current balance of consumers of organic goods will probably be tilted in some way by the retail giant. Lower prices on the products might attract new consumers, such as Gen Y shoppers. However, Molyneaux speculated, the wider reach of organics might also erode the sense of exclusivity that Devoteds enjoy.
And in a rapidly changing marketplace, Molyneaux concluded, presenting an authentic product is not only a route to profits and customer loyalty; it's also a way to avoid the wrath of “tyrannical consumers” who don't complain to companies when they are displeased or suspicious about a product, but instead are likely go straight to the Internet with their dissatisfaction.