There are three essential rules to marketing organic products:
- know your product’s performance and nature
- know the regulatory requirements
- know your customers.
Know your product
For those moving into organic production, a working knowledge of the performance of the products to be marketed is essential. Know a product’s limitations as well as its potential for differentiation in the marketplace. Use this knowledge to enhance your marketing.
Some organic produce has a shorter shelf life than its' conventional counterpart. Other products can have a longer shelf life when stored and transported effectively. Differences can be capitalised on where relevant. Using the apparent weakness of a product to market benefit is essential. For example, softer, sweeter tasting berries may need to be marketed differently than firmer, less ripe berries. Local markets, pick your own, or similar market outlets may be the most appropriate here.
Poor quality product is unlikely to attract repeat sales. So be sure that product quality meets your target customers’ expectations.
Know the regulatory requirements
There may be unique requirements for processing, packaging and storage of organic products.
Aspects such as labelling, packaging materials and transport, as well as retailing arrangements require consideration and careful planning to ensure they comply with all regulatory requirements while maintaining the unique marketability of the product.
Research is required to ensure organic status is maintained along the supply chain.
For instance, there may be mandatory fruit fly control requirements across state borders, containers for export may require fumigation, and there may be food safety requirements to be met which have the potential to eliminate certain products from the organic market without alternative treatments or technologies in place.
Knowing and understanding the role that regulators play in the supply chain is essential.
For exporters, there are international as well as import country regulations which may require extra documentation, testing or quality specifications which go beyond the requirements for the Australian market.
For those not yet certified, selecting the right certifier will also be an important aspect of marketing.
Know your customer
The market for organic produce is diverse, not only across sectors but also across regions of production and population. Trade involves a variety of niches: local and direct, international, supermarket and large processors.
Local markets or niche restaurant markets can also be large depending on the approach taken.
The key to any effective and sustainable marketing system is to base a system on demand rather than supply-led principles.
Ongoing research, possibly entailing direct buyer or consumer contact, is vital to remaining on the path of demand, rather than supply-led marketing.
Market intelligence can come from many sources. Some certifiers send out regular newsletters that contain market reports and other market information.
Visiting markets, speaking directly with buyers, regularly staying in touch with the end consumer and asking their views on the product is all part of maintaining markets as they change and grow.
The internet is a great way to remain informed.
Stay in contact with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), your local chamber of commerce and related service providers to keep up-to-date with market intelligence on emerging markets as well as over-supplied markets.