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Perception shift for organic foods

AN increasingly health-conscious society has created a growing demand for organically grown products.

Whereas organic foods once were seen as part of a holistic remedy to ill-health, it is now the healthy who are insisting their food be free of pesticides and genetic modifications.

Organic Farm Foods owner Sylvia Thompson said the trend toward organic foods was growing, at both the producer and consumer end of the market.

In the 13 years since Mrs Thompson started her Leederville store, the range of organic products has more than doubled, giving customers more alternatives to products found on supermarket shelves.

“I now have everything from fruits and vegetables and meats … there is a full range of foods, and products such as baby powder,” Mrs Thompson said.

“There is a core base of buyers and I believe my customer numbers have grown 50 per cent on top of that base.”

And this trend is set to continue as more consumers became aware of the benefits of organic foods and products.

“Ten years ago is was people who were ill who wanted organically grown food, but now it is everybody, from pregnant mums and families with young children to sports fanatics,” Mrs Thompson said.

“The people who buy organic produce are very well read and they understand the issues surrounding use of chemicals and genetically modified foods.”

Supermarkets, however, have been slow to pick up on the trend, with many choosing not to stock organic foods on a regular basis.

Though they recognise the demand is growing, it is a supply problem which prevents organic foods appearing on their shelves.

Foodland Supermarkets senior category buyer John Gellin said the chain did not stock organic foods because it could not arrange to have an adequate amount of the products supplied to all stores.

“Some individual store owners may choose to stock a small number of organic products in their specialty sections, but there would not be many,” he said.

“The demand for organic foods is certainly increasing but the rate really does not justify us going into this market holus-bolus.”

Individual Grocers Association president John Cummings said customers increasingly were raising questions about the origins and contents of food products.

“We get a tremendous amount of inquiries about food additives and genetically modified foods, customers are very aware of the products they do and do not want to buy,” Mr Cummings said.

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