Many shoppers do not understand what 'organic' really means, and retailers and suppliers are failing to get the message across, a study by the Dunnhumby Academy of Consumer Research has found.

As a result consumers tend to buy organic out of guilt or a sense of duty, leading to repeat purchasing figures well below those for conventional produce. This is compounded by the lack of in-store and on-pack information about organic products, which "perpetuates confusion and distrust", Dunnhumby's Andrew Fearne told the

Re:fresh conference.

Consumer research revealed that shoppers felt organic produce was often tasteless , they were confused about what organic meant and that the shortage of information made it difficult to make informed decisions, he said.

Despite this, organic produce sales were growing faster than conventional, and now represented about 6% of fruit and vegetable sales, the research showed. Organic fruit sales grew 18% in the year to 22 January, compared with 2% for conventional fruit, while organic veg was up 11% compared with 7% for conventional.

However, although organic remains a premium category, there has been significant price deflation in the sector leading to a lack of confidence among producers, said Fearne.

"The lack of branding in the produce industry means suppliers are more dependent on supermarkets than in most other food categories," he added. "Consumer demand and growth expectations remain buoyant yet there remains a lack of confidence upstream to invest in conversion when the likelihood is that the current price premium will be eroded."

n Worldwide fruit grower

CE Murch is switching its entire apple and pear crop to organic to meet supermarket demand. The Kent-based company already had 35% of its 45 acres in organic production, with conversion of the rest expected to be completed this month.