More “sophisticated” consumers are putting pressure on organic food producers to convince them to buy their wares in the recession, industry watchers claimed today (2 June).

Global organic sales continue to grow, reaching over US$50bn in 2008, according to estimates from researchers Organic Monitor.

However, as consumer spending wanes during the downturn, the growth in organic sales is slowing and Organic Monitor said the sector was being affected by more demanding consumers.

“[Consumers] are increasingly looking at ethical sourcing, traceability, the carbon footprint, sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Thus, the organic production method only partially meets rising consumer expectations,” the researchers said.

Organic Monitor claimed that some organic brands have been able to meet this evolution in demand and pointed to Green & Black’s, the UK-based, Cadbury-backed chocolate line.

“Green & Black’s has become a household name partly because consumers identify it as an ethical brand. The organic chocolate is made from certified organic cocoa, which is ethically sourced from developing countries,” Organic Monitor claimed.

The recent performance of organic products is mixed, with sales in the UK inching up 1.7% in 2008 to over GBP2.1bn (US$3.47bn). Across the channel, meanwhile, organic sales in France rose by 25% to EUR2.6bn (US$3.71bn).

Organic Monitor insisted producers should look to adopt what it termed as “organic plus” strategies.

“Companies should look at going beyond organic and consider initiatives like ethical sourcing, adopting fair trade practices, offsetting carbon emissions, traceability schemes, promoting biodiversity,” it said. “By adopting such strategies, they will ensure positive growth continue in 2009 and beyond.”