New findings released on April 30 at Naturally Good Expo in Sydney by leading organic industry group Australian Organic show an uptake in household spending allocated to organic produce and goods. According to the annual Australian Organic Market Report, 40 percent of organic shoppers increased their organic spend since 2016.

The Report survey, conducted by the Mobium Group, found that over one in ten Australians (12 percent) consider themselves to be highly-committed organic purchasers, usually outlaying 40 percent or more on organic food or household products (online survey of 1,000 adult Australians mid-February 2018).

"Currently worth AUD2.4 billion, the organic market is booming. The retail market is now estimated at $1.6 billion – up 88 percent since 2012 – accounting for 70 percent of Australia’s organic market," the report said.

The total number of certified Australian organic operations – producers, handlers, and processors (4,028) in 2017 increased by 7 percent over 2016. Certified organic processors (1,432) grew by 23 percent in 2016, while 12 percent of certified processors were contract processors.

The Mobium survey found that:

  • More than 6 in 10 Australian households buy organic in any given year.
  • Nearly 40 percent of organic purchasers increased the allocation of their household food spend on organics over the past year.
  • The weighted average proportion of household food shop allocated to organics has grown to 16.9 percent in 2018, up from 16.3 percent overall in 2016.
  • Fruit & vegetables remain the critical entry category for organic purchasers at 60 percent; home-cooking ingredients are next with 46 percent participation, then dairy products with 45 percent.
  • 84 percent of current organic buyers have purchased a private organic label (Coles, or Woolworths brand Macro).
  • ‘Chemical-free’ (82 percent) and ‘additive-free’ (71 percent), along with being ‘environmentally friendly’ (70 percent) are viewed as the most significant benefits of organic.
  • Cost continues to be the biggest hurdle in greater purchasing of organic food (67 percent), followed by ‘trusting it is organic’ at 40 percent.
  • Millennials are becoming more health and environmentally-conscious and educated about the benefits of organic.

Commenting on the report findings, Australian Organic's general manager Sue Willis said: “It’s inspiring to see that we are living in a time where many Australians are becoming more educated about the thousands of new chemicals and pesticides that are being used today in consumer goods and are making the switch to go organic.

“Our findings show Australians are becoming more health and environmentally-conscious, thinking carefully about what they are putting into their bodies, the products they are choosing to use and the effect this has on their health."

According to Nielsen Homescan data, organic grocery sales grew by 13.6 percent in value in 2017 over 2016. Supermarkets had an 87 percent value share of trade, while non-supermarkets had 13 percent of the business.

It is difficult to estimate total export value due to the unavailability of government figures for organic export tonnages via exporter organic produce certificates (OPCs), while not all certified organic produce exported from Australia is produced in Australia.

However, certifiers ACO and NASAA certify almost 90 percent of the 4,028 certified operations in Australia with OPCs.

"Based on the ACO and NASSA OPC's, exports were generally stable in 2017, though the tonnage was slightly down (3 percent) on 2016 figures, probably due to the seasonal conditions (with below average rainfall)," the report said.

Exports were sent to nearly 60 countries, with over a third going to East Asian markets such as Mainland China and Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Mongolia, and a little under a third to North America.

The top five export destinations for organics (by tonnes) were the USA (26 percent); Mainland China (15 percent) and Hong Kong (7 percent in 2016); South Korea (10 percent); Japan (7 percent); and Singapore (7 percent). The most significant growth markets were Japan (up 62 percent) and Mainland China (up 55 percent).

Organic sectors as a percentage of total export tonnage in 2017 were led by processed food (22 percent); beef (20 percent); baby food (13 percent); other (9 percent); wine (9 percent); processed grain products (7 percent); and dairy (5 percent).