Can organic/natural products shift from niche to mainstream?

The power of related and supporting industries for social value creation via organic/ natural products

Organic nature warriors are coming…Are they sufficiently strategic and business intelligent?

In light of growing awareness about the climate change and environmental challenges, healthy living and wellbeing emerge as key strategic directions and behaviour patterns among companies and their customers. However, the analysis of this research topic is rather complicated, due to its holistic nature: to better examine consumer and organizational behaviour patterns, related to healthy living and wellbeing, GILE researchers rely on the Related and Supporting Industries Concept (which is part of Porter’s Diamond Model) and bring their insights on this topic from the perspective of different sectors and industries, such as organic and/or natural products (food and beverages, cosmetics, and etc.), healthcare, social entrepreneurship, social impact investors, public organizations, technology firms, organic farming, Research & Development Centres, spiritually enhancers, and many others. Although the demand for healthy living and wellbeing-related products is rapidly increasing, the sophistication and quality of these products are not improving at the same pace, due to insufficient collaboration and knowledge sharing among stakeholders.

As it was stated by Pavla Medvedova (2019) founder of “Balanced and Lifestore” (active social entrepreneur in the area of organic and/ natural products,, it is not easy to be knowledgeable and effective/efficient in a big data ocean of healthy living and wellbeing. While meeting social entrepreneurs during GILE Experts’ learning program “Culture, Service Development, and Innovation: Peculiarities of Family Business in Sicily” (September, 2019), Medvedova and other participants came to the agreement, that in order to generate bigger economic and social value-added, social entrepreneurs face the necessity to implement a platform (physical or digital) where all stakeholders from related and supporting industries could share their experience and resources, promote healthy living and wellbeing paradigm as well as educate each other in this holistic area. Hence, the strategic goal of quality and sustainability of healthy living and wellbeing could be reached (individuals could call their life “Balanced”), only when all stakeholders (in particular, customers and clients) are engaged via modern technologies, specific education programs are launched, and monitoring process of economic and social impacts is implemented.


Healthy living and wellbeing

Renugadevi and Ramya (2017) agree, that driven by busy work schedules, stress and pollution, nutritional and healthy work life are key dimensions to healthy living. Marinescu (2018) addresses the issues of work-life balance between personal development and professional fulfillment, as well as between paid work and leisure activities. The author pays a special attention to gender equality, equilibrium between work and family life as well as lifelong learning process (technology, languages, and etc.). GILE Experts add that it is impossible to reach work-life balance without finding a balance between material and spiritual aspects of life.

Asadzandi (2018) accentuates the role of spiritual health (defining it as “Sound Heart”), which could prevent diseases, engage in healthy living and self-actualizing working practices (such as creativity enhancement, yoga, meditation, talent development, and etc.) which might lead to wisdom, smoother communication and employee productivity and/ or creativity. Notwithstanding decisions that should be made and activities that should be carried out on an individual basis, Irudayadason (2018) emphasizes the role of the integrative spirituality, which is part of a more generic healthcare system. Health is related to a set of aspects of a person, such as physical, psychological, socio-cultural and spiritual elements. These aspects should work in harmony in order to reach strong health, quality of life, and positive attitudes towards life.

The wellness market, according to 2018 Global Wellness Economy Monitor, reads USD 4.2 trillion and it is improving annually by nearly 13%, while personal care and beauty market accounts for USD 1.082 trillion. Healthy living and wellbeing is critical; however, based on Aviva (2017), 31% of UK adults suffer insomnia. Thus, wellbeing and holistic beauty are rather complex areas (including beauty sleep, anti-pollution innovation, self-care and ‘Well care’, plant-based beauty among others) and it should be addressed via a set of solutions, such as diet, exercising, relaxation, and managing stress techniques.



GILE Experts assume that Healthcare is one of the key industries which drive the change in consumption of organic products. Based on HIMSS (2019), healthcare providers intend to bring emerging technologies (such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, interoperability-driven blockchain, mobile application, and digital therapeutics) together as well as integrate them into digital healthcare ecosystem, which enable quality, accessible and affordable care. Based on Berger’s report (2016), the estimated market of digital health might reach USD 200 billion by 2020 (compared to c.a. USD 80 billion in 2016). Vogenberg and Santilli (2018) argue that Artificial intelligence helps revolutionize healthcare in designing treatment plans and providing online consultation or assistance in repetitive jobs, contributing to medication management and drugs development. The authors also emphasize the role of virtual reality: positive impacts on patients’ lives and physicians’ work (for instance, relaxing patients with a chronic disease or making children feel home). Hence, healthcare innovations are mainly related to enabling providers play a bigger role in sustainable, customized and data-driven care. According to Hal Wolf, HIMSS President & CEO (2019), the fusion of information and technology may help establish a digital hub of innovators, care providers and patients.

Organic/ natural food market

Based on FiBL presentation by Niggli (2019), in 2017, only 14 countries had not less than 10% of their agricultural land organic, and five countries had the largest areas of organic agricultural land (Liechtenstein, Sweden, Estonia, Austria, and Samoa). Such statistics calls governments for more sustainability-oriented programs, while paying more attention to a set of narratives, such as sufficiency, consistency, and eco-efficiency. Chattopadhyay and Khanzode (2019) and Sundaresh & Babu (2017) go one step further and examine the interrelation between socio- economic variables and consumer attitude towards organic foods.

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Given better understanding of specific consumer behaviour patterns, public and private partnership is a next critical step to integrate this knowledge into organic food revolution. Within the amended annual work plan and budget (2019) for the Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking, the main 2019-2010 scientific priorities were underlined: fostering the supply of sustainable biomass feedstock; optimize efficient processing for integrated bio refineries; developing bio -based product innovations for specific market audience; promoting bio-products and its applications. In 2019, the program allocated EUR 135 million for 21 topics.

GILE Experts accentuate the significance of applying knowledge in practice while adapting it to specific contexts of different economies or audiences as well as realigning attitude and perception towards organic products. For instance, while examining organic food industry development in Bengaluru city (India), Chattopadhyay and Khanzode (2019) emphasized the role of perception and awareness of climate and environmental challenges (such as pollution, agricultural waste, product quality and safety, biodiversity, and corresponding health issues), because awareness is the driving power for organic industries in this region.


Moreover, in many European countries the organic food market is growing faster than its production with the highest market shares of eggs and organic vegetable. Based on FiBL and IFOAM  (Organics International 2019: the World of Organic Agriculture. Frick and Bonn), 10% of all vegetables are sold in countries, such as Switzerland, Austria, Denmarkk, and Sweden; fresh carrots and pumpkins have c.a. 30% market share in Germany, and organic milk has 30% market share in Denmark, in 2017). Based on the same report, finding a healthy combination of marketing distribution channels (general versus specialized retailers or direct and other sales) might contribute to enhancement of organic food culture in a specific economy. (FiBL and IFOAM – Organics International 2019: the World of Organic Agriculture. Frick and Bonn).

Attention to organic products is growing in parallel with the focus on biodiversity and support for higher performance and cost efficiency products with less fossil-based inputs. In many initiatives, performance optimization would be impossible without strategic collaboration among various economic actors via innovative technologies and business models oriented to bio-based materials, chemicals, and fuels. Thus, monitoring of economic performance and tracking of value-added is equally important to social and environment-based indicators (based on ANNEX to GB decision 3/2019). The State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food (FAO, 2019) report calls for the resilience, sustainability and productivity of food and agricultural systems as well as food security and nutrition, which could help realize 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

Similar trends can be witnessed across various organic industries. For instance, based on the information provided in the Capital Markets Day of Arcus (2019), which is one of the leading Nordic Spirit companies, the use of new packaging types regains its momentum and contributes to higher market shares; while organic wines continue showing growth (Organic market share accounts for 7,7%, but it is responsible for 19% of market growth, based on Vinmonopolet (2018)).

The growing momentum of organic production across various industries might put a pressure on companies’ profit margins. During the Capital Markets Day of the Chilean company Salmones Camanchaca (2019), Vice Chairman Ricardo García pointed out the importance to be sustainable, low-cost and value-adding company, and it is driven by the growing demand for sustainably farmed seafood (+37 million tons of seafood is needed annually, in parallel with the growing population on Earth).



Every economy should acknowledge the trends and challenges of organic products’ industries, but the decisions should be context-based. For instance, to raise the consumption level of organic food products in India among different age, income and education groups, Chattopadhyay and Khanzode (2019) suggest to continuously focus on information and knowledge sharing, while the availability of such products nearby markets and/ or online or via mobile applications could be a positively contributing factor. According to the authors, marketing campaigns through traditional and social Medias could help create more awareness about positive effects of organic products and negative effects of non-organic production. Thus, both Governments and influential companies should use social marketing techniques to gather and engage more people.

Organic Cosmetics

Based on Organic Beauty and Wellbeing Market Report (2019), prepared by Soil Association and presented by its CEO Martin Sawyer, the UK is experiencing the expansion in certified organic and natural beauty sector and it will continue improving driven by specific behaviour patterns of millennial and Generation “Z “consumers. For instance, Amberg and Fogarassy (2019) came to implications that in spite of growing awareness about green, natural and organic products, not all consumers prefer natural cosmetics, a big chunk of customers prefer traditional or combined cosmetics. Such trend could not be copy pasted in the food industry, due to bigger extent and longer duration of food effects on health.

To continue, Amberg and Fogarassy (2019) agree that effectiveness of cosmetics is still a key consumer selection criterion between natural and chemical products. The growing awareness with regard to health and environment calls for more explicit data and more efficient education in the area of natural and organic products, as well as better understanding how these products relate to personal and social/environmental preferences.

Hereupon, the attention towards organic cosmetics is growing along with concerns regarding environmental impacts (such as, deforestation) or social impacts (related to unfair trade).


Bom et al. (2019) define the term “Cosmetics Sustainability” as a multifaceted phenomenon which requires integrated assessment of environmental, social and economic dimensions as well as refers to the final product quality and performance. In Europe, this science and innovation-driven organic cosmetic market accounted for USD 77,6 billion in 2017 (Cosmetics Europe – The Personal Care Association, 2018), and it was driven by production process, service chain  and technical innovations, which enable companies improve existing cosmetics, thanks to new organic and nature-centric  ingredients, or help develop a new product for more sophisticated customers and clients. Every stage of product life cycle matters for both, environmental/ social consumer concerns and economical drivers among organic cosmetics businesses. It is logical, because in order to introduce a sustainable and organic cosmetics to the market, companies need to be driven by positive externalities, which might diminish profitability indicators (due to high expenditure in R&D/ technological improvement, stronger marketing efforts, potential risks, related to accreditation and certification, in parallel with the increasing demand for intellectual capital within organic cosmetics industry.

Aziz et al. (2017) draw a special attention to functional aspects of cosmetic products, because the efficacy of organic cosmetics has to be backed up. For instance, according the NATRUE Label requirements for natural and organic cosmetics, at least 95 % of the natural substances must originate from controlled organic farming. In order to receive COSMOS (2019) organic or nature certificates for cosmetic ingredients or cosmetic products, companies need to cross a long process from ingredients checking to final products validation, with a lot of documentation checked  and on-site inspection conducted by authorized certification bodies. Having such complicated requirements, user-friendly technological hub (facilitating data and knowledge sharing, collaboration and resource sharing) would be of significant advantage.

As it is stated in Sparknews Report in collaboration with Cosmoprof Worldwide Bologna (2019, 3p.), “sustainable beauty is better when it’s shared”. To continue, it is estimated that Organic and Natural Personal Care Market will grow at a CAGR of 8% (2018-2025, based on Global Analysis by Trends, Size, Share, Business Opportunities and Key Developments: Adroit Market Research, 2019) and might reach USD 25.11 billion by 2025, according to a new report by Grand View Research, Inc. (estimated industry growth reads 9.4%), where more than third of the total organic and natural personal care market belongs to the US.

Given the rising consumer preference for natural ingredients-based products (Globe Newswire, 2019, market growth by 2025), over six-year period, organic and natural skin care market is expected to increase by 8.2% CAGR. Some innovative companies, such as Madara Cosmetics (Latvian origin), go one step further while introducing stem cells bio-technology ,as it is claimed to be eco-friendlier (using plant stem cells developed in the lab without harvesting actual plants (Sparknews report, 2019).

In many economies where media is playing an important role on consumer choices, the exposure of nature-centric ingredients put a pressure on companies to produce and offer somewhat healthier and more natural products, which might in the shorter run effect profit margins, ROI and value-added indicators. For example, companies will continue replacing chemical ingredients by natural ones, animal – by plant and fermentation sources. Along with introduction of more organic products, holistic therapy is also gaining its momentum as well as ingredients promoting homeostasis. Thus, fungi, elm oysters or mineral-based cosmetics are in demand, and nanotechnology emerges as a core technology in the R&D department. Moreover, somewhat smoother legal harmonization of organic/ natural cosmetics among the US (antiperspirants, antidandruff shampoos and sunscreens are regulated as drugs), Europe (antiperspirants, antidandruff shampoos and sunscreens are regulated as cosmetics), and Japan (if the effect of an antidandruff shampoo on the human body is mild, it will be categorized as a quasi-drug) would enhance understanding and realign customers’ perception regarding organic cosmetics (Aziz et al., 2017).

Social innovation, social entrepreneurship

GILE experts recommend for organic cosmetics and food companies to embrace more collaboration-based technologies, techniques and approaches. Bringing industry stakeholders together will contribute to higher social value-added, thanks to sharing of resources and expertise, synergy effect, and shorter product development cycles. In many cases entrepreneurs in organic/ natural products’ industries are described as social entrepreneurs and have access to a great diversity of programs, although social innovation supporting infrastructure varies from one country to another.

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For instance, based on the British Council Report – the State of Social Enterprise in Turkey (2019), social enterprises might play social innovation facilitators’ or social glue role within hubs/ networks, as these organizations are often characterized as innovative, creative and influencing the social entrepreneurship dynamics. While relying on GEM Social Entrepreneurship Report (2015) and other published and unpublished statistical sources for Tukey, it is estimated that there are approximately 9,000 social enterprises in Turkey (British Council Report – the State of Social Enterprise in Turkey, 2019).

Relying on Bahena-Álvarez et al. (2019), social innovation is a fusion of philanthropic and economic aspects, while the study of 100 Mexican SMEs led to the discovery that Techno-scientific organization structure (50% of studied SMEs) is characterized by greater viability for Mexican entrepreneurs (the other three types refer to : “The techno-social organization”, “The capitalist-social organization”, and “The capitalist organization”.

Similar challenged are addressed in National Social Enterprise Policy for Ireland 2019-2022 (Government of Ireland, 2019), where a lot of attention is paid to collection of data related to the dynamics of social enterprise as well as tracking social and economic impacts of social innovation-driven organizations. In addition to data concerns, the Government of Ireland also emphasizes the principle of impartiality, while engaging with social enterprise stakeholders in different activities and projects. According to Irawan et al. (2019), it is critical to research and conceptualize the framework of social entrepreneurship, while including a set of diverse aspects, such as conscience, humanity, spirituality, trustworthiness, and social learning.

European Commission (2016) is mapping European region in terms of Social Enterprise Eco-systems, while adding to social and governance dimension the social entrepreneurship dynamics (in particular, regarding sustainability of social innovation). Wascher et al. (2018) accentuate the role of R&D transfer mechanism, such as social labs which operate as an ecosystem for social innovation actors and offer innovative solutions to social challenges (thanks to the diversity of available resources, including knowledge) and rich expertise and capabilities. Within research of the case of Malaysia, Wahid et al. (2019) admit that education is a particularly important stimulus for social entrepreneurship career among students.

Maduro et al. (2018) examines the landscape for social impact investment across Europe through assessment of the opportunities that social innovations could bring with adequate financial programs and appropriate institutional framework developed.  The role of public sector on organic product development along with the awareness about benefits of organic products is growing. Professor Eva Sørensen and Professor Jacob Torfing (2013) introduced 2 additional dimensions of social innovation—leadership and public governance, which could be characterized as constructive management of difference. Therefore, any innovation with a big social value-added is not likely without collaboration techniques, new technologies, creative leadership and constructive flexible management within supporting and complimentary sectors. Luftgansa Group (2019) in its Capital Markets Day adds that sustainability is centred on sustainable management, which is oriented to employees, environment and social aspects of leadership, along with “Multi-Hub” system for customers.

According to OECD/ EU (2019), a moderating and coordinating catalyst agency is critical for social enterprises and social innovation. Therefore, the EU countries employ various policies and strategies to release the social innovation potential. For instance, Until 2017, the UK-based Big Society Capital Bank (BSC) allocated more than 400 million pounds to finance intermediary organizations and leveraged an additional private co-investment of 700 million pounds, where the most of total 1,1 pounds (2/3) reached charities and social enterprises. OECD/ EU report also referred to the Portuguese experience, where an inter-ministerial committee was launched in early 2014 to prepare a new policy, along with a catalyst agency created and Portugal Social Innovation initiative launched with the help of the European Social Fund of EUR150 million. By 2018, Portuguese Social Innovation agency allocated more than EUR 30 million to hundreds of social innovation projects.

Positive externalities

Social innovations facilitators are of significant importance to promote healthy living culture; however, the role of social impact investment is equally important, as social entrepreneurs often lack funding for innovation processes and projects. According to OECD (2019), digital platforms are being implemented to bring stakeholders together and provide a data necessary for social impact investors (such as GrowInclusive platform, a joint project by the World Economic Forum, the World Bank, and the International Development Research Centre, 2018). Hence, digital hubs provide companies with social impact monitoring examples. Based on the OECD report (2019), the role of digital networks is undeniable; however, many of these platforms are of a fragmented nature. More thorough efforts regarding harmonization and standardization of social digital platforms with clear usage guidelines would be very useful, along with meaningful data analysis.

As it is stated by Bertelsmann Stiftung (2018), the missing standards make comparative analysis of hubs particularly complicated in terms of data and infrastructure (Impact Finance Network, 2018). Moreover, harmonization of social data fields and repositories could help manage information asymmetries and cut high transaction costs; measuring social value-added might help organizations reach equilibrium between positive and negative externalities as well as access capital markets more effectively. A focus on somewhat smaller but more profitable volumes might be a great solution to free-up more cash for social innovations and shared-value economy, while strategic collaboration with other stakeholders within organic products industries might cut expenditure in less sustainable and excessive areas.

An interesting investigation was made by Brière et al. (2019), who presented the European Commission-based research on Institutional Investors’ Votes on Corporate Externalities. The authors examined the role of institutional investors on management decisions to generate more global externalities (for instance, climate change or human rights). Briere et al. concluded that management engagement in positive externalities would not only depend on institutional investors’ expectations: the clients’ values should be taken into account. According to Wendt (2017), the role of investments that combine economic and social value-added is currently gaining its significance and will continue affect social entrepreneurship dynamics in the future.


Many companies point out that long term success and sustainability of a company depends on innovative and sustainable HR techniques, which could contribute to work-life balance. As for example, Life Group HealthCare (2018) employees’ health and safety are among the key concerns at all levels, and education (mandatory training); psychological and creativity-based sessions as well as innovation culture might promote a positive and supportive working environment. Deloitte (2018) adds that new technologies , such as digital technology, robotics, automated tools, help not only to reduce the cost base and engage customers, but also solve challenges related to healthcare employees’ shortage (in terms of numbers and specific competences). In parallel to technological aspect, Deloitte (2018) accentuates the economic aspect of this industry, where value should come before volume.

Healthy living and wellness (including: production, selling and/or using of organic/ natural products; spiritual growth and work-life balance) are very holistic areas which are gaining its popularity among customers and social entrepreneurs; however, sharing resources, knowledge and responsibilities among different stakeholders also requires innovative strategies with clear strategic goals and precise outcomes. GILE Experts suggest that equilibrium between social and economic impacts, spiritual and material world, family and work life, individual and organizational expectations is unlikely without having a holistic view of organic/ natural products industries. Financial monitoring indicators are equally important to spiritual and social impacts, while without effective and efficient performance and without well selected and continuously upgraded strategic collaboration technologies it would be impossible to reach positive externalities in order to contribute to healthier living and wellbeing. It is time to start generating social impacts strategically and effectively: let us speak about effective/efficient and sustainable healthy living and wellbeing.


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