The Coop as the driving force behind organic marketing
by Redaktion (comments: 0)
Since the beginning of the nineties, Coop Switzerland has been playing a bigger and bigger role in marketing organic products. At the end of the nineties, it was joined by Migros, the leader in the food trade in Switzerland. Of every four Francs that are spent on an organic product, three end up in the coffers of these two enterprises. The Coop played a leading role in this development from the very beginning and was not content with offering just a wide range of organic food products but also committed itself to ecological alternatives in the non-food market.
Today under the brand name Coop Naturaline, now celebrating its tenth anniversary, you can buy a wide variety of products from organic cotton to cotton buds. In the eighties and nineties, Migros opted for so-called 'integrated production', IP for short, as the alternative to traditional foodstuffs produced with the aid of pesticides. The symbol of the ladybird was supposed to convince consumers that organic production methods were being used. Migros is still suffering today on account of this less-than-clear communication policy, and this is the reason why its share of the turnover of organic products is only half as big as that of Coop Switzerland. In 2004, Migros's turnover for organic products was 293 million Francs, an increase of 1.8 % compared with the previous year. Using the term 'Engagement' (www.engagement.ch) Migros presents on the internet the areas of activity that it sees as supplementary to its core business. Alongside organic food it gives the examples of organic cotton, Dolphin Safe and Max Havelaar (Fair Trade), but it also includes IP-Suisse.
Coop Switzerland is organised as a cooperative, the enterprise being supported by more than 2.2 million members. 60 % of all Swiss households are participants in the Coop and a significant proportion of sales can be attributed to them. The turnover of organic products was already at a high level, but in 2004 it increased by a further 5 % to 603 million Swiss Francs. 8 % of the Coop's turnover of food consists of organic products and a further 6 % consists of meat and eggs from (conventional) animal-friendly, free-range poultry keeping. Both the meat and eggs are sold under the label Naturaplan (www.coop.ch/naturaplan). A green bud - the Swiss organic logo of the umbrella organisation of Swiss organic farmers - distinguishes the production method used.
The Coop commands a very big share of the organic food market with a number of products like vegetable juice. 92 % of vegetable juice bought in Coop shops is of organic origin; in the case of yoghurt the figure is 60 %; and every second litre of fresh milk already comes from an organic farm! The proportions for butter, carrots and bread are 39 %, 35 % and 29 % respectively. In the case of organic meat, the growth rate was 30 %; with the result that the Coop achieved a turnover of 30 million Francs in 2004. Surveys revealing that 88 % of the population are familiar with Naturaplan indicate a very high level of recognition.
In addition to the extensive organic ranges, with 1300 food items, the non-food area is also being continually extended, with the result that there are now over 4000 (!) articles in eco-textiles. Going even further, organic flowers, cosmetics and household goods are regularly sourced from eco-friendly production and can be bought in the shops. The Coop has more than 1000 branches in Switzerland. The volume of organic products varies according to the size of the store.
In the autumn of 2004 a new product strategy, the regional marketing of organic products, was introduced. (“Regionale Bio Spezialitäten” - regional organic specialities). Currently, 50 products from 20 different regions of Switzerland are being offered. A condition for inclusion in the list is that 100 % of the raw materials in fresh produce come from the region and that 90 % of the agricultural raw materials in compound products must originate in the region. In this way, the processing and therefore the value added stays in the region.
The background to these activities is not least the strategy of the Swiss to distance themselves from Aldi that is trying to penetrate the market. The German discount chain has been planning for some time to open branches in Switzerland and is looking for locations. This is the reason why the activities of the Coop and Migros are going in two different directions: on the one hand reinforcing Swiss quality products that create a strong identity, and on the other hand creating a low-price discount range of comparable products.
The Coop is promoting another awareness-creating marketing strategy with the marketing of organic products that bear the seal of approval of the Swiss foundation 'ProSpecie Rara' (www.coop.ch/prospecierara) and consist of several vegetable varieties according to season. Under the slogan 'Old Varieties Rediscovered', many types of vegetable such as yellow tomatoes, yellow carrots and blue potatoes are made available. They come with a label on the packaging, a leaflet with product information and recipes.