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OMIaRD
Organic marketing initiatives and rural development

Organic Marketing Initiatives (OMIs) will be examined, at increasing levels of complexity, to determine guidelines for existing and potential OMIs, and related actors, for the development of successful marketing strategies. This will involve investigation of the performance of the OMIs themselves, their interaction with the communities and the overall environment of the regions in which they are located, as well as the evolving nature of consumer demand. Through this investigation of the role of intermediary market structures and the specific contexts in which they operate, potential improvements in regulatory structure, policy support and dissemination of good practices will be examined to determine whether contemporary developments can be extended and improved. This will improve the capacity of organic farming to generate positive social and environmental effects in peripheral, disadvantaged regions of Europe.

Objectives
The objectives of this policy are:
1) to provide a broad assessment of the development of the organic market in Europe, including all EU Member States and a selection of candidate countries, EEA members, and Switzerland. This will include both demand and supply factors, including a description of recent consumer trends, the interaction of market prices and production-related subsidies, initiatives in marketing, processing, distribution and promotion of organic produce, and the degree of market integration, paying particular attention to disadvantaged areas. Achieving these basic objectives will contribute to the realisation of the subsequent objectives.
2) to improve the knowledge of success factors in marketing. This will be achieved through comparative narrative case-study analysis in regions selected to illustrate the diversity of conditions and needs, distinguishing local contextual factors from transferable practice, and focusing on individual commodities or commodity groups, distribution channels and promotional strategies.
3) to identify the contribution of Organic Marketing Initiatives to sustainable rural development (the same case-study regions selected for the second objective will be used). This will be achieved by employing formal techniques of income and employment multiplier, as well as multi-sectoral qualitative analysis (MSQA: Roberts and Stimson, 1998) to encompass financial, physical, environmental, social and cultural variables, including regional identity.
4) to undertake a prospective investigation of future consumer demand trends, attitudes and behaviour towards organic products and organic farming across Europe as a whole, utilising a range of qualitative approaches (including focus-group discussions). There will be particular focus on the ethical, social and environmental dimensions, together with the quality and place identity of organic products, to distinguish relevant strategic marketing issues that can maintain and enhance both the production base and linked economic activities, especially in peripheral rural areas.
5) to consolidate and integrate the research findings of previous objectives into recommendations for market development and policy. For market development, activities will comprise of the dissemination of marketing and organisational experience to the actors and institutions involved in the activity, promotion of closer links between primary producers and final consumers, and novel or improved new forms of collaboration between the actors within the organic market. The recommendations will include, on the policy side, coordination of assistance at local, regional and supra-regional level for the organic food production system through Community Support Frameworks and the Common Agricultural Policy, together with similar policies in non-EU countries.

Progress to Date
1) The national investigation of the current state of OMIs throughout Europe was completed.
2) The regional survey examined 78 OMIs in 35 regions within eight countries with the aim of explaining their success or failure from both economic and social standpoints within their regional context. Due to internal and external competencies, sector and regional conditions are very diverse, which makes defining a successful OMI is a very complex task.
3) The second of the three rounds of the Delphi survey has taken place. Some of the key issues, which have emerged so far, are as follows:
a. countries in Europe vary in the development of their organic food markets and the attitudes of experts in some areas appear to be influenced by this
b. within an individual country, not all markets for organic food are equally developed
c. lack of marketing skill, the fragmented nature of the market, high consumer prices, poor availability of organic products, and lack of consumer information were considered the most important constraints upon supply and demand in the organic food market
d. the importance attributed to the impact of national and regional government support appears to reflect the differences in governmental policy among European countries.
4) The in-depth case studies have provided much valuable material for analysis. Initial results suggest outlines for a comparative analysis of the rural development impact of OMIs, together with the discussion of internal success factors, will provide valuable insight and illustrative material for the marketing handbook to be produced.
5) Consumer research (laddering, focus groups, scenario analysis) continues and the data gathered will prove useful for product positioning and communication strategies for organic products.

Results
1) Results depict a regular organic consumer who is more educated, more knowledgeable and who has probably 'converted' to organic food due to critical life events.
2) An increase in organic convenience goods appears crucial for the growth of the sector. Certain consumer groups see no difference between organic and conventional and perceive the good quality of conventional products as sufficient to attain their main values.
3) Knowledge, trust in labels and origin, and different degrees of motivation amongst consumers can all contribute to improving organic communication strategies. Currently the level of knowledge is rather low resulting in a low level of trust.
4) Availability, convenience and habit act as important barriers to the consumption of organic products. However, consumers recognise the risk that mass-market distribution could make organic products less 'innocent' and therefore less trustworthy.
5) For the future, the issue of the taste and appearance of organic products being 'different' should be examined further. The perceived higher price of organic products is an important barrier for many consumers. The level of product knowledge needs to be increased, as does the availability of products.

Classified in FOOD, ARABLE CROPS, CAP AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT

Scientist responsible for the project

Prof PETER MIDMORE
Cledwyn Building, Penglais Campus
SY23 3DD Abersystwyth
United Kingdom (The) - GB

Phone: +44 1970 622251
Fax: +44 1970 622409
E-mail: pxm@aber.ac.uk

References

Project ID QLRT-1999-31124
Organisation University of Wales, Aberystwyth
Area 5.5
Start date 01 January 2001
Duration (months) 36
Total cost 3 312 359 €
Total EC contribution   2 629 067 €
Status Completed
Web address of the project   http://www.irs.aber.ac.uk/OMIaRD/

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