As own-label manufacturers work hard at cornering an even bigger slice of the organic market, some ranges, such as Sainsbury's So Organic, are proving a big hit among consumers.
The success of own-label products is particularly impressive because trust plays key role in relation to purchase of organic produce, with many consumers remaining loyal to specialist and well-known brands.
"In general, consumers trust specialist producers more than non-specialists or own-labels that may source from more than one manufacturer. The issue of trust is especially significant to health-driven consumers in the organic sectors," says Andrew Shupick, MD of Grove Fresh. "Consumers feel that specialist producers share their concerns and are less likely to cut corners in favour of profit."
But with a 61% share, own label still accounts for the bigger slice of the total organic market.
Categories dominated by own label include fresh produce and commodity areas such as milk, while branded varieties tend to rule in the packaged grocery categories - a trend mirroring the mainstream market.
Sainsbury has made an impact with its So Organic own-label offering, which recently benefited from a revamp. This included the addition of an extra 100 lines to the existing 400-strong range and new dark green packaging to enhance product recognition.
Sales have jumped 27% in the past year, according to the company.
Reasons behind its success are simple, according to Simon Wright, founder of Organic & Fairtrade Consulting. "Sainsbury's own- label organic line is attractive, stands out in-store, presents a quality image and gives consumers the story behind each product."
Wright predicts that the success story of So Organic will motivate other retailers. "I expect Organic Fortnight in September to be the focus of a lot of retailer activity." Sainsbury says it intends to expand its range and promote customers' growing interest in organic produce in order to maintain sales momentum.
But it hasn't been all been plain sailing for Sainsbury - an internet company called So Organic is looking to sue the multiple over the name of its organic range. However, Sainsbury contests the idea of any overlap. "There are key differences between us -we sell Sainsbury's So Organic branded food and drink in our stores and on our web site. The So Organic web site is a web portal selling many brands of non-food items, " says a spokeswoman.
The future of the own label sector looks increasingly healthy as brands open up new market sectors and retailers focus on offering me-too versions.n