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Distribution is key to success of green brands

Distribution is key to success of green brands
Organic Monitor research finds the most successful green brands are those who have expanded distribution into mainstream channels.

Green brands need to focus on distribution if they are to widen appeal of sustainable products. Organic Monitor research finds the most successful green brands are those who have expanded distribution into mainstream channels. Such brands have managed to break the “green glass ceiling” and outperform the market.

In spite of high consumer interest, most sustainable products have low market share. For instance, natural products represent just 3 percent of personal care product sales in Europe. Organic foods generate 4 percent of total food sales in North America; the market share of ethical textiles and green household cleaning products is even lower in these regions, below 2 percent.

A major factor behind the low market share is most green brands are focusing on specialist outlets. Few natural personal care products are in mass market retailers, whereas the channel generates over a third of cosmetic and toiletry sales in the US. Similarly, about 40 percent of organic food sales in Europe are still from organic food shops and health food retailers. Distribution is even more limited for ecological household cleaning products and organic clothing.

As will be shown at the Sustainable Foods Summit and Sustainable Cosmetics Summit, green brands need to "think outside" specialist retail channels if they are to broaden appeal. Brands are advised to follow pioneers like Green & Black’s and Aveda in reaching out to mainstream consumers. Green & Black’s has become the world’s leading ethical chocolate brand partly because of its success in large food retailers. In the UK, the brand has recently launched a USD 3 million television marketing campaign to promote its organic and fair trade-certified chocolates. By gaining a mass market following, sales of the green brand have increased over tenfold from USD 7 million in 2002.

Aveda has also been successful in the natural personal care industry because of its distribution strategy. Aveda is positioned as a professional hair care brand in salons. Organic Monitor research shows it is the premier brand of natural personal care products, with distribution in over 7,000 salons. Ecover has also taken up a similar position in the green household cleaning products market because of extensive distribution.

A major challenge for green brands is channel selection: what outlets to focus on? To add complexity, the success of sustainable products in some channels creates competition. For instance, almost all major food retailers in Europe are marketing organic foods under their private labels. These private labels often "cannabilise" branded product sales. Indeed, the leading brands of organic products in North America are owned by retailers: O Organics (Safeway) in the US and PC Organics (Loblaw) in Canada.

In Europe, the Änglamark private label of Coop Denmark comprises over half of organic food sales in the country. The private label also leads in the green household cleaning products market. Alverde of DM drugstores has also taken up high market share to become the leading private label of natural personal care products in Europe.

The complexities associated with distribution have led some green brands to set up their own retail networks. The Body Shop pioneered the ethical retailer concept in the 1970s. A growing number of green brands are following its lead and opening concept stores. Most are in the natural personal care industry, where the likes of Melvita and Korres are opening stores across the globe.

Pioneering green brands/companies will be participating at upcoming sustainability summits hosted by Organic Monitor; they include Aveda, The Body Shop, Green & Black’s, Änglamark (Coop Denmark),Naturaline (Coop Denmark), PC Organics (Loblaw), Burt’s Bees, Intelligent Nutrients, Léa Nature, Wessanen Group, Hain Celestial, etc.


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