Organic, a business model?

With the double-digit growth you dream of in these times of economic turmoil, organic is on the rise. But the economic model is under tension, between small sales and production structures and industrialization.

20% growth: a figure worthy of Soviet propaganda under Stalin, and yet: it is organic in the first half of 2016 in France. A market estimated at 6.9 billion euros in 2016 according to the Agence bio. But is organic losing its values ​​by gaining speed? Behind the bright future promised by these spectacular figures, isn’t there the threat of the assured decline of an alternative and sustainable economic and social model?

In any case, this is the concern of Adnan Jaoui, Claude Gruffat, Didier Perréol and Jean Verdier, presidents of Biodéal, Biocoop, Ekibio and Synabio respectively. With the help of some 30 sustainable food experts, they wrote an e-book called Organic and sustainable food: current situation and perspectives(3).

An economic model in suspense

Undoubtedly, they are right to worry: for several years now, smelling the good veins, industrialists have not been asked to surf the green wave of organic. In the cities, for example, plates with vitamin colors bloom like roses in spring: those of small areas that only offer biologically stamped products.

Among the mass market brands that have taken the plunge, Carrefour with its organic Carrefour line opened in 2013, Auchan and its Coeur de Nature stores, Casino, which is opening more Naturalia stores (more than 140 in 2016, compared to 64 in 2011 ( 2)), Intermarché proclaims that “it’s organic every day”, Leclercq develops his Bio village brand… The list is long.

in addition to these small specialty shops, when it comes to organic products, supermarkets share the bulk of the pie: the majority of product sales take place in supermarkets and hypermarkets (almost 45% of organic products in 2015). A big challenge for large groups and a good artery for communication: last October, the new president of Monoprix Régis Schultz announced the replacement of the classic baguette with an organic baguette, without a price increase.

Source: BIO Agency / ANDI

The development of organic in supermarkets: a good sign?

The organic specialty stores are afraid of having the carpet pulled from under them by large and medium-sized shops. Especially since some are ingested raw by the tenors of the food industry. Monoprix has taken over Naturaliawhile Carrefour greenweezthe French leader in organic e-commerce.

But should we necessarily regard the growth of organic in supermarkets as a danger? For Étienne Paulin, of the Coop du Val Fleury, this is rather a good sign: ” The development in mass distribution is important, because the more we increase the supply of products in the different distribution vectors, this automatically leads to more consumers. »


Noni Fruit © Katerina Pokrovsky Shutterstock

For players in the sector, if supermarkets want to have a fair share in the progress of organic, they must play fair. ” Even today, mass distribution communicates about cheap organic products, it is urgent that brands that adhere to the spirit of communicating organically at the right price. (…) Organic only retains its values ​​by create a different form of economy “, notes Alain Delangle of Bio-coherence. System You seem to have learned the lesson: the cooperative of traders has a range of organic dairy products in collaboration with the collector Biolait and the processor LSDH, based on a renewable three-year partnership with preliminary negotiations on the desired milk quantities and compensation from the partners “at the right price”.

Organic farming cannot be reduced to a way of producing and consuming »

For the authors ofOrganic and sustainable food: current situation and perspectivesthem organic growth rates hide an important problem. According to Franck Bardet, head of the animal sector at Biocoop: “ When people talk about organic, they are talking about organic products, while organic is a sector made up of actors who take into account a vision, a social and economic activity or even a model of society The authors of the eBook sum it up: organic farming cannot be reduced to a way of producing and consuming “.


Bio must take into account the different actors © Syda Productions Shutterstock

For Claude Gruffat, president of Biocoop, consuming organic is not enough, we still have to become “consum’actors”: ” When I do my shopping at Biocoop, in an AMAP (Association for the Preservation of Farming Agriculture), at the farmers’ market, I vote for a certain model of society built on a particular economic model, that of the economy of needs, that of the social and solidarity economy. When I make my purchases in the standardization of mass distribution, I vote for a different economic model, a different model of society: that of predation, of the concentration of added value on a few people, of the impoverishment of the greatest number, that of the financialization of the economy. »

Organic: a secure future

Even if large and medium-sized supermarkets still monopolize most of the organic market, the trend could well be reversed in the future. It is in fact direct sales and sales in specialized organic stores that grow the fastest (+20% and +17% respectively in 2015 compared to 2014).

the biological one

Direct selling has more and more followers

But the authors of the eBook point to a risk for the future: a two-speed organic sector.” on the road to golden mediocrity », with on the one hand short circuits of local and seasonal products that fairly compensate the producers; and on the other an impressive array of imported organic products, produced at low cost in the four corners of the world by poor workers, whose prices fluctuate with the pace of world prices.

Are you hoping for more political creativity for, among other things, better eating every day? Pre-order it A Short Guide to Political Creativity – How to Unleash Collective Daring?, will be released on February 23. Support its distribution by contributing to the crowdfunding of the book!

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