Responsible retailing can help cater to the needs of today’s conscious consumer, says Gaurav Manchanda, Founder and Managing Director, The Organic World.
Conscious consumerism is expected to be a game-changer in the Indian retail space. While the concept is not new, the pandemic has seen a steady surge in the number of consumers consciously making purchasing decisions that they believe have a positive social, economic, and environmental impact.
“The Indian consumer has changed over the years, with the consumption patterns taking on decidedly more conscious overtones,” affirms Gaurav Manchanda, Founder and Managing Director of The Organic World, a leading organic and natural products retail chain.
Consumers today are more likely to champion brands with a strong purpose that reflects their own values and beliefs. The ethos of the brand is as important as the products they sell. Consumers want to know where their fruits and vegetables are sourced from, how they are grown, and also if there are any chemicals used.
“Not only are consumers more conscious about what they buy – that is, making healthy, chemical-free food choices – they are also conscious about the impact their buying decisions have on the environment,” says Manchanda. He founded The Organic World in 2014 with the idea of offering Indian consumers ‘better choices’ in food, grocery, personal care and home care products.
The evolution of the organic food market in India offers valuable insights into the effect of conscious consumerism in the world of retail. According to research firm IMARC, the Indian organic food market reached a value of $815 million in 2020 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 24% from 2021 to 2026. In other words, the demand for organic food is here to stay.
Drivers of change
Millennials are believed to be the drivers of this trend. They are well-informed and mindful about their food and lifestyle choices; they are known to opt for sustainable labels, products made with clean ingredients, prioritising natural and chemical-free choices.
“Today’s younger generation enjoys a level of exposure through the internet, social media, etc that perhaps the older generations didn’t have. This makes them much more aware of issues like soil and water pollution through use of chemical pesticides, the plastic waste accumulating in our oceans, and climate change issues. And this, in turn, informs their buying decision,” notes Manchanda.
However, he insists, it would be remiss to say that only millennials are embracing conscious consumerism. “We also see working parents in the 40+ age group who are conscious about what they feed their family. Their focus is to prioritise the purchase of ‘better choice’ products for their family. These include organic and natural products that are traditionally made and free of chemicals,” he adds.
At The Organic World, customers are increasingly opting to shop at the zero-waste section (a small step to reduce plastic footprint), for products that come in sustainable packaging, and reading the labels to understand what goes into their making. “Responsible retailers will have to take cognisance of this changing need and align their business goals accordingly,” says the entrepreneur.
As a responsible retailer, The Organic World has undertaken a key initiative by way of its industry-first ‘Not In Our Aisle List’ – a list of 25 (and expanding) ingredients that they have banned from their stores. This includes harmful ingredients that are found in conventional products, such as trans-fat (found in commercially fried and baked products), phthalates, sulfates and parabens (found across beauty and personal care products) and high fructose corn syrup (a common sweetener), among others.
By ensuring that the products they keep on their shelves live up to a higher standard than industry-established norms, The Organic World also hopes to nudge the industry to adopt healthier business practices – for the consumer and the environment. Currently, 60% of the company’s last mile delivery is via electric vehicles. The aim is to adopt 100% electric vehicle delivery in five years.
Small, consistent efforts can make a big difference. At The Organic World, for instance, all vegetables and fruits are sourced from organic-certified farms that follow only organic and sustainable farming practices. Moreover, the stores don’t trash unsold fruits and vegetables, but use them as organic cow fodder in the farms.
Manchanda believes responsible retailing will play a pivotal role in ensuring that retailers are able to cater to the needs of today’s conscious consumer. “Responsible retailing is all about being transparent with customers as well as weighing their best interests over short-term financial profits and growth, and creating an ecosystem that benefits all the stakeholders involved,” he maintains.