Consumer survey of attitudes and preferences towards organic products In east Africa

Today we launched the results of consumer survey of attitudes and preferences towards organic products in east Africa at the First International Conference on Agroecology in Kenya. The survey was carried out in the scope of the Organic Trade and Value Chain Development (OTEA) project.

Key Findings

  1. Consumer awareness surrounding organic food has increased by 5% since 2013, representing an overall change from 35% to 40%. The most used reference for organic foodis “natural foods”, with Uganda reporting the highest percentage at 58%, followed by Burundi at 48%, Rwanda at 45%, Kenya at 29%, and Tanzania at 20%.
  2.  Information regarding organic products is most often relayed by word of mouth, TV, and teachings at school/college. Compared to 2006 and 2013, new digital sources, such as the internet and social media, featured prominently in 2017 survey results.
  3. Between 2013 and 2017, the consumption of organic products increased by 10%, up from 49% to 59%. Similar to both the 2006 and 2013  ndings, in 2017 health/ nutrition, taste, and safety oforganic products appeared to be the key motivation for purchasing and consuming organic food.
  4. Consumer attitudes and perceptions surrounding organic food remain positive because these products exclude chemical fertilizers and encourage natural, biological processes.
  5. 92% of survey respondents believe there is a strong need for a system to verify organic products. A majority, at 67%, felt the government should oversee such a veri cation system while 23% felt that an independent certification body should taken on this role.
  6. The key motivating factors for consuming organic foods were reconfirmed as: healthy, safe, and more nutritious.

The report also offers a number of recommendations.

Study results have shown that what matters most to customers is health/nutrition, which aligns directly with consumer associations to organic. In 2017, consumers showed an increased willingness to pay the same or slightly higher prices for organic products.

Health and Safety have ranked as the top key motivating factor of consumption for all three study years. These factors should therefore continue to be the pillars for building, promoting, or increasing organic consumption in East Africa. This notion is strengthened by the fact that when speaking about general food purchasing considerations, health and safety continue to rank as the top factor for a majority of survey respondents. However, price is a close and must therefore continue to be taken into account, alongside the availability of organic products in markets.

On verification systems: some 2017 survey respondents are still not aware of any/existing
verification systems, although a good proportion – as in previous survey years – mention the use of labels. This is significant increase. The East African Organic Mark is a crucial tool and, as the survey shows, using the mark/logo on products is one of the best ways to increase organic recognition.

The study clearly indicates that organic business has a place in the East African economy. However, there is a need for stronger, proactive sector support in order to better organize production. What is needed is more active government involvement and a holistic approach for promoting organic, which includes converging all similar initiatives, addressing multiple issues simultaneously, and focusing on organic in awareness raising. There is also a need to increase private sector participation and partnerships between NOAMs (National Organic Agriculture Movement) in building organic markets and expanding consumer bases. The identified traders who work to promote organic food could be made into allies for promotional activities of organic products.

Download a summary here and the full report here


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