The appetite for organic foods in Saudi Arabia is on an upward trajectory, with a third of consumers (33%) purchasing more organic produce in the last 12 months compared to the previous year, according to a new survey conducted by YouGov*. Commissioned by Arla Foods, the world’s largest manufacturer of organic dairy products, the research also revealed that over half of Saudi consumers (55%) purchase organic foods more than once a month.

The leading driver of this trend is health reasons (64%) with 49% of consumers believing organic food to be healthy, more natural (45%) and safer for consumption (44%) when compared to non-organic food due to the general understanding that production methods are free from pesticides (45%), added hormones (40%) and antibiotics (30%).

In January 2018 Arla launched Arla Organic Milk in Saudi Arabia across Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam, as part of its commitment to make organic accessible and affordable to families in the Middle East. Since the launch, consumers in the Kingdom have shown strong consumer interest in the range of organic products.

Interestingly, in addition to perceiving organic to be healthier, over a half of Saudi consumers (51%) also believe it to taste better. This could differ across categories of organic products. Ethical food choice motives – concern for environment (19%) and animal welfare (12%) – also have a strong influence on consumers’ attitudes as organic agriculture is largely considered environmentally friendly.

Fruit and vegetables is the dominant organic category, making up 66% of the market, followed by dairy (50%), eggs (49%), poultry (45%), cereals and bakery (44%), fish (36%), followed by red meat (35%).

Of the 24% of consumers that never purchase organic, 51% of consumers are simply not in the habit of purchasing organic. This may be attributed to the fact that one in four (25%) add that there is limited availability in stores, and 16% do not think it’s any different or better to non-organic food. Price is considered the second biggest barrier cited by almost a third (32%) of respondents.

Commenting on the research, Ann-Camilla Kjaempe, Category Director at Arla Foods said: “The organic food segment is gathering pace in Saudi Arabia, bolstered by consumers’ growing interest in health and wellness. Consumers are increasingly looking out for more natural foods, as we have seen from the first few months of launching Arla Organic. The research also indicates that consumers are supportive of animal welfare and environmental concerns and consider these as attractive product attributes that influence their purchasing decisions. We are proud to say that all Arla dairy products are produced to the highest standards and with respect to the environment and welfare of animals.”

She added: “While the popularity of organic food began with fruit and vegetables we are now witnessing consumers exploring categories such as organic dairy, meat and grocery. Consumers are increasingly looking to purchase organic but traditionally the two main obstacles are price and availability. At Arla, we are committed to making organic more accessible to consumers in the Middle East so that it becomes mainstream rather than a niche market.”

*Research was conducted by a YouGov omnibus survey with a sample size of 1,000 respondents in Saudi Arabia during February 2018.

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