Ecological products are in their golden age and, although the distribution of conventional items take the market, ecological supermarkets and bio shops are filling the gap inside the main cities. A space in which handmade products have a future market niche. From Sibarita News we want to delve into this booming market in which craftsmanship –especially the one orientated to cosmetics and diet– has much to say.

The increasing interest for a healthy diet, opting for a model of proximity, and a shopping basket every time ampler have made the businesses that uses the label “Bio” or “Eco” to become a booming market with a stable growth, despite the crisis.

Besides, the profile of buyers of ecological products is very large, depending on their motivations: consumers of conventional products who are looking for healthier alternatives, people with allergies and intolerances, others that are looking for recovering the formerly flavours and textures… Also, there are people who decide to eat ecological products because of a philosophy or because they have been convinced into it, such as vegans and vegetarians, and those who do it simply because it is trendy. This is, therefore, a potential large market.

According to the study of 2015 done by the Subdirección General de Calidad Diferenciada y Agricultura Ecológica del Ministerio, the consumption of ecological food in Spain registered an increasing change. More than 18,3 millions of Spanish homes bought an ecological product that year. In 2015, the consumption of ecological products in Spain was close to 1.500 millions of Euros, which indicates a growth of the 24,5% with respect to 2014 (and this year, the growth was of the 18,2% with respect to 2013). These numbers highlight a very especial aspect, as it is the fact that the expense of ecological products has grown in Spain much more intensely than the expense of conventional food and drinks, which has been chronically decreasing in the past few years.

Per capita expenditure by the Spanish consumers in ecological products reach the 32,3 Euros/citizen/year, which brings closer the Spanish market to the one of the biggest developed countries with regard to consumption of ecological products. Between 2011 and 2015, while the per capita expenditure of the conventional food and drinks lightly decreased (-2,1%), the per capita expenditure of ecological products increased notably (+56,6%), which indicates that this evolution of the ecological products’ demand will end up encouraging to big distributions and to many of the biggest food industries so they will be interested on taking into consideration and on attend this growing part of the Spanish food market, which has bigger rivalry and promotion.

Challenges and threats. The option of purchase of ecological products is based on this types of motivations: health and diet care (perception of healthier and more nutritious), rejection to the use of pesticides, fertilisers of synthesis, hormones, additives, etc., as well as the perception of a bigger proximity to the field, with a known origin, to the idea of authentic, autochthonous, traditional.

Even though they are more determinants to challenges and threats, as there are some difficulties that can ballast the growth of the market, despite the opportunities that are presented for the development of the business.

Tough rivals. The food distribution is a market highly competitive. And some of the conventional supermarkets have included spaces for ecological products in their stores. However, the eco supermarket can have its place. Therefore, it is important to have programmes to promote loyalty: nutritional advice, cookery lessons, sending sales when the clients are supposed to finish a product… These are marketing techniques or strategies in order to the consumer remember the business.

The price barrier. The ecological production is more expensive than the conventional one, therefore, the products have a higher price. According to the Ministerio de Agricultura, distributors acknowledge the fact that the price is between 25% and 50% higher than their conventional equivalents.

The necessity of importing certain products. Until a few years ago, the majority of products came from the north of Europe. Now there are more national producers and the price has decreased notably, as there are less intermediaries, which has allowed to adjust the price. However, there are still many products that are produces outside our geography, which complicates the competitiveness.

Smaller selection. The offer of ecological products is smaller than the conventional ones, as there are less manufacturers or producers. Moreover, the main strength of the ecological supermarkets is the fresh product and, obviously, fruits and vegetables are only sell if they are seasonal. This is not an inconvenient for the convinced consumer, but it is an obstacle for the client of conventional food, who is used to have any product at any season of the year.

In any case, it is blooming commercial niche in which the handmade products have a way out very significant, with professional distribution networks and with the possibility of adapting the production to other handmade products, such as cosmetics or natural decorations. We will keep it under review.