Lately, I have noticed a sudden burst of organic stores on the scene. So far, I had been seeing small sections dedicated to organic products in supermarkets and other shops, offering a limited range of products. Earlier, buying organic vegetable and fruits was restricted to weekly Farmer’s Market in Bandra or smaller outfits and individual sellers which supplied fresh produce direct to home. Stores like FabIndia, Westside carried a range of packaged organics staples, spices and condiments while several large supermarkets as well specialty stores like Vinita Mathur’s Health Shop – had a small section stocking organic foods from Conscious Foods, 24 Letter Mantra and a few other certified brands.
But suddenly, there are entire stores dedicated to organic products mushrooming around Mumbai. I’d always thought of the category as being niche – premium and metro-centric – given the higher price of all products produced organically as well as the low awareness about its advantages over conventionally produced products. These dedicated organic stores got me very curious in terms of why this sudden spurt – whether the prices had gone down, whether the product offering had changed and whether the cost of a standalone store was really justified for such products. So, I paid a few of them a visit.
Organic Garden (located in Breach Candy and Prabhadevi, Mumbai) has a whole range of vegetables and fruits grown organically, certified by ECOCERT. It’s a small store, stocking only fresh and small quantities of different fruits and vegetables grown in the region. Despite being higher priced than the regular vegetable seller, the price differential is no longer the 25-50% that it used to be, it was only about 10-15% higher.
Organic Haus (at Kemps Corner, Mumbai) is a premium shopping experience, stocking a whole range of organic products which are imported from Germany and Austria. Their range of products includes foods and beverages, nutritional supplements, cosmetics, baby and home care products. The store is supported by well trained and informed sales personnel who explain not only the advantages of going organic, but also the product ingredients, method of usage, etc. (especially critical since most of the packaging is in German), provide information and explain unfamiliar terms like “gluten-free”, etc. and recommend products according to consumer health conditions and dietary requirements. Such is the confidence in the success of the store and its products that during the launch of its flagship store in Ahmedabad (yes Ahmedabad! not Mumbai or Delhi as one would expect), Organic Haus Chairman Dilip Doshi said, “We are planning to open 8-10 company-owned stores and 10-20 on franchise route across the country. We are in talks with some retail stores for shop-in-shop segment”. Currently plans are underway for a store in New Delhi and Bangalore as well as an online store. The products in the store are definitely much higher priced, but the variety of products is huge as well as the type of products stocked are quite different from the regular organic fare (such as an organic slimming kit which is a rage in Germany, nutrition supplements, beauty cosmetics, etc.). Also, Organic Haus has been heavily marketing – with billboards all along Marine Drive as well as creating a buzz through Facebook.
Navdanya-The Organic Shop (in Andheri, Mumbai) has been started by Navdanya Organization, a network of seed keepers and organic producers spread across 16 states in India, which started out as a research initiative, led by renowned scientist and environmentalist Dr. Vandana Shiva. They sell a wide range of products ranging from fruits and vegetables, staples, spices, condiments, jams and spreads, dry fruits, tea and coffee to seeds for cultivation.
Not only stores, but dedicated restaurants and cafes are also spurring up. Lumiere is a chain of restaurants in Bangalore and Cochin using only organically grown products from their own farms. Navdanya restaurant at Dilli Haat in New Delhi serves delicious meals prepared with organic ingredients. Deli.in is a chain of organic salad and juice bar with outlets in Bangalore and Pune.
A few years ago, this market was marred by inadequate retail presence, little to no certified branded produce, an incomplete range, uncompetitive price points, and government policies that were skewed towards exports. That said, this space has definitely seen a lot of activity in the past few years – not only in terms of more outlets, higher awareness, higher acceptance despite higher prices, but also in terms of regulations and certification of organic foods by government bodies. The organic food market is still a very niche market – under 5% of the total food market – and has huge scope for growth, some estimates pinning the growth numbers at 40% annually.
This sure has become a space to look out for.
Are people turning to organic produce solely because of the health benefits or because it is just a trend? Because if it is solely for the health benefits, people have to go a long way in terms of changing their current lifestyle before they can even think about having organic foods. There was a restaurant at Taj Land’s End – PURE – which was an all organic restaurant. It was popular for a year or two but eventually shut down (I’m presuming because they lost their patronage after it got old). People in Mumbai are quick to take to new trends and equally quick to move on. Let’s revisit this topic say a year or two down the line when there is an answer to my question. BTW – the organic milk at the Organic Haus is amazing. It is a pity they don’t stock it regularly even though I must have told them that they should at 3 different occasions.
You’re right, awareness of health benefits of organic in India is low, and is rising really slowly – that’s one reason why the organic craze hasn’t caught on here the way it has abroad.
More from us on this topic soon.