This is evident from our study, where the Spanish consumer organization OCU searched for versions with sustainable certification of 140 products in the shopping basket. The researchers compared prices for 34 food and pharmacy products.
There are more and more products with organic, fair trade or sustainability certification (MSC, ASC, GOTS…), but they are not available in most sales points, and if they are, they are more expensive.
The price of “organic” in 22 supermarket chains
Prices were collected for 34 families of food, medicine and cosmetic products in 22 supermarket chains. The products are grouped into three categories: A-brand, private label and with organic, fair trade or sustainability certification (OCU only focuses on certified products because they give consumers guarantees about their production process).
The most important national supermarket chains were selected for the study. Six chains specializing in the organic market have been added: Biosano, Espacio Orgánico, Herbolario Navarro, Naturitas, Planeta Huerta and Veritas.
More and more “bio” products
OCU has identified from the outset that 85% of the 140 products analyzed in the supermarket survey are labeled as “organic” versions in one of the 22 online chains analyzed, but most are not even available in half of the supermarkets. The easiest organic products to find are extra virgin olive oil, natural yoghurt, whole milk (rather than skimmed milk), rice drink, chocolate, coffee (mainly naturally ground), eggs and cooked vegetables.
Good selection of organic products in these supermarkets
Alcampo, El Corte Inglés, Carrefour and Eroski have a good selection of organic products, including their own private label. This allows them to offer a shopping basket with at least half of their products certified organic, fair trade or sustainable (MSC, ASC, GOTS…). A level that can already be compared to chains that specialize in organic products, such as Espacio Orgánico, Veritas, Naturitas, Herbolario Navarro, Planeta Huerto or Biosano. It should be noted that these chains offer a greater variety of small, local and diverse brands. It is essential for a sustainable market.
No organic product at Mercadona
Other national food chains such as Gadis, Condis, Consum, Aldi, Caprabo or BM offer 25% or more products in the basic basket with organic certificates. While MAS, Lidl and Dia have at least 15 per cent. Surprisingly, Mercadona still does not offer its customers any product with an organic certificate.
Organic products are much more expensive
Organic fresh food costs on average twice as much as the non-organic variety. For packaged foods, the prices of the analyzed organic products are on average 51% more expensive than the prices of the leading brand and 154% higher than the prices of the distribution brand.
Biggest price differences on pharmacy products
We find the biggest price differences for drugstore products, as organic products are on average 58% more expensive than products from leading brands and 334% more than products from retail brands.
See also: Update cheapest and most expensive supermarkets in Spain
Many supermarkets already have organic white labels such as Carrefour Eco Planet, Eroski Bio, Milbona bio (Lidl), Cien bio (Lidl), Gutbio (Aldi), Alcampo Bio, El Corte Inglés Bio, Consum eco, Choose Eco (Ifa) or Under other Veritas. This is good news for consumers, because although these organic products are still more expensive than their non-organic equivalents, their price difference is halved compared to the organic A brands.
Organic distribution labels
OCU compares the prices of 13 “pairs of products” of the same distribution brand in their conventional and organic versions and verifies that the organic versions are always more expensive:
- +210% Lidl Bellarom ground coffee 250g
- +119% Carrefour natural yoghurt 4x 125g
- +46% El Corte Inglès fresh eggs 6 pcs
- +45% Día Láctea whole milk 1l
- +39% IFA Eliges Gadis chickpeas 1 kg
- +33% Consum Extra Virgin olive oil 750 ml
- +26% Eroski dark chocolate 74% 100g
- +12% Aldi butter 250g
Why is organic more expensive?
The industry that produces conventional products has been criticized for selling at lower prices in return for externalizing environmental costs, reducing biodiversity and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. Organic production is part of the solution: consuming “less and better” means meeting our needs within the limits of the earth, choosing better products for the planet and for us. But doing things right comes at a price, according to OCU:
Organic farming has lower productivity because it requires more labor. In addition, soil fertility should be maintained by rotating crops and avoiding the use of chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Organic farming takes longer for some species to breed, requires more land or reduces the number of animals on the same area. Feeding grass and grain yields less than ready-to-eat feed.
In cleaning and cosmetics, the cost of investing in innovation is important to bring good quality products to market without harmful ingredients. The higher price of some of the raw materials used also has an impact. In addition, the certification costs for products certified as “organic” must be added up. This guarantees the consumer that at least some aspects of environmental sustainability are covered. The result is that organic products have a price that is not always within the reach of the consumer. It is therefore important that the government’s policies strongly support sustainable production and consumption.
OCU asks for support for eco-consumption
Sustainability is a necessity, not a luxury. To make the market for sustainable products accessible, a wide, easily recognizable and affordable selection is needed. OCU asks institutions and companies:
- Wide selection. OCU is asking for a quota for sustainable products.
- Easily recognisable. Sustainability labels should evolve from partial eco-labels to a European sustainability index with a scale for environmental, social and economic aspects that, in addition to product characteristics, takes into account the production method, proximity, seasonal production and corporate responsibility.
- Against one affordable price. OCU calls for a super-reduced VAT of 4% for the most sustainable products for daily use, government policies that strongly support sustainable production and consumption, consumer education to promote sustainable lifestyles and an appropriate price signal that invites the purchase of sustainable products.
The change is with you
- Consumers can make the biggest contribution by reducing the consumption of meat and dairy products and buying these products organically.
- Prevent food waste by buying a little at a time.
- Prefer seasonal food.
- Choose local and nearby products to reduce your carbon footprint.
- Try to buy organic products, as they guarantee a more respectful way of production.
- Simplify your purchase. For example, use a simple all-purpose cleaner.
- Avoid overpackaged products. Buy unpackaged goods and bring your own containers and bags to the store so you don’t have to use plastic.
- Join consumer groups or cooperatives to buy directly from the producer.
- Grow your own food, also in the city (pots, urban gardens…).
See also: More and more are choosing organic wine