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Breaking through the green glass ceiling

by Redaktion (comments: 0)

A major challenge that organic and sustainable brands face is how to break through the green glass ceiling. How can such brands break out of their niche status and gain a mainstream following? How can they maintain their core green values, whilst appealing to wider consumer groups? Organic Monitor gives some insights into this growth conundrum. (Sustainable Foods Summit 2011, organised by Organic Monitor, in Amsterdam)

A small group of consumers
comprise most sustainable product sales, creating a glass ceiling to business growth. For instance, organic food sales have been increasing at double-digit rates in the USA however they comprise just 4% of total food sales. In Europe, natural & organic personal care product sales have shown similar growth rates, yet they have just 3% market share. Fair trade products, ethical textiles and other sustainable products have similar low market shares because of this concentration of demand.

Marketing appears to be the solution. As will be shown in Organic Monitor’s upcoming sustainability summits, brands that can successfully position themselves to attract broad consumer groups are breaking through the glass ceiling. The Belgian firm Alpro is one such success story. After initially finding success with its organic soya dairy alternatives, the Alpro brand has been re-positioned to widen consumer appeal. It is marketed as a well-being brand, attracting health-conscious and ecological consumers, as well as those suffering from food allergies. Alpro dominates the European functional foods and dairy alternatives market.

In the USA, Aveda has been highly successful with its professional range of natural personal care products. Launched in 1978 by Horst Rechelbacher when few consumers were aware of natural & organic products, Aveda products were marketed on their plant ingredients and performance. Like Alpro, Aveda leads in many areas of sustainability: it is the largest user of recycled plastic in the beauty industry and is one of the main buyers of organic essential oils in the world. Today, Aveda is the second leading hair salon brand in the USA, with sales spread to almost every continent.

Since its launch in 2005, Bio+ has grown to become the leading organic brand in the Netherlands. Its popularity is because it is positioned as a lifestyle brand, with organic not the main proposition. It was the fastest growing brand in Dutch supermarkets in 2012, and ranked 39 in the Top 100 brands in the country. Other organic brands, such as Hipp, Weleda and Green & Black’s, have also gained a mainstream following because they have not focused on the green consumer segment.

Retailers are also widening consumer appeal for their ethical private labels. The Naturaplan brand of Coop Switzerland now comprises almost half of all organic food sales in the country. Sustainable products – including textiles and household cleaning products – have over 10% market share in Coop Switzerland stores. In Germany, dm drugstores have successfully positioned the Alverde brand of natural cosmetics; it is now the premier private label of certified natural cosmetics in Europe. Whole Foods Market, the largest natural & organic food retailer, has also been successful because of its broad customer base. Expanding the small green consumer segment will be fundamental to the long term growth of organic & sustainable product industries. In the interim, Organic Monitor advises brands to follow the pioneers and invest in marketing to reach out to new customers.

The challenges faced by organic and sustainable brands will be featured in the upcoming Sustainable Cosmetics Summit and Sustainable Foods Summit. Marketing and consumer behaviour are a key focus, with case studies given of brands that have successfully overcome the green glass ceiling; papers will be given by Horst Rechelbacher (Aveda founder), Alpro, Weleda, Whole Foods Market, Coop Switzerland, Bio+, and others. (Picture: Sustainable Cosmetics Summit 2012 in New York)

The aim of the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit is to encourage sustainability in the beauty industry by bringing together key stake-holders and debate major sustainability issues in a high-level forum. The North American edition will take place at InterContinental New York Barclay hotel on 16-18 May 2013. More information is available from

The aim of the Sustainable Foods Summit
is to explore new horizons for eco-labels and sustainability in the food industry by discussing key industry issues in a high level forum. The European edition will once again be hosted at the Mövenpick hotel in Amsterdam on 6-7 June 2013. More information is available from


Food Quality

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Cosmetics & Bodycare


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