Is organic produce worth the investment?

From farmers and wholesalers to retailers and hospitality providers, the question of whether organic produce is commercially viable is an increasingly common one. We asked one wholesaler for his take on the organic meat market.

Andrew Lupton, co-owner of wholesaler Nonna’s Gourmet Sausages and Deli, believes that the explosion in demand for organic produce is nowhere near finished yet. In fact, he says the problem is simply keeping up with the booming demand.

“Organic meat is taking off [but it] has got a long way to go,” he explains.

Nonna’s focuses its efforts on supplying smaller, independent retailers rather than large national chains and supermarkets. Andrew says this approach has helped to further expand the opportunities for organic producers, and in turn go some way to helping meet the surging demand.

“Because we go to these independents, they are able to access organic meat for the first time, because they're already buying something [from us]. They can buy normal category meat, free-range meat and organic meat all from the same company,” he says.

“Although they're different brands as well, which is good for them because they've got lots of different people on the shelf, but it's not the same supplier, so it means that they can source more products from one company, which enables them to put different things on the shelf that they wouldn't have been able to before because they would have been subject to minimum volumes, so it means they can dabble.”

While many people have been put off selling organic produce because of the high cost barrier, Andrew says that organic produce is now delivering roughly the same margins as its non-organic counterparts.

“In [dollar] terms, it's more, but in percentage terms, it's about the same,” he says.

“Organic meat is cheaper now than it was two years ago. The cost of normal beef has gone through the roof, and the cost of organic beef has not gone up by anything like that, so the jump now from classic free range or non-free or farmed beef, for example, to organic beef has never been an easier jump to make. It's 20 per cent. That's all it is.”

The downside with organic produce is that it can be very difficult to source, with not enough suppliers to keep up with the explosion in demand, Andrew says.

For anyone considering getting into the organic market, no matter their type of business, it is important to understand exactly what organic produce is – and what it isn’t – so as to be able to engage with future customers.

“I still feel organic's a lifestyle choice, really. It's not a guarantee of quality. It's a guarantee that the product's been made in a certain way,” notes Andrew.

“It doesn't mean it's as tasty necessarily as a free-range option, where the farmer's had a bit more up his sleeve to get the animal prepared for market. The organic meat is good in general, it is good… but essentially when you're buying organic meat, you're buying a lifestyle choice; you're not buying a quality stamp.”

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