Coronavirus impact: Organic food companies see surge in online sales

Annapurani V Chennai | Updated on March 24, 2020

Customers click on seeds and herbs; amla, turmeric and ginger-based products favoured

After hand-sanitisers and face masks, organic food products seem to be flying off the shelves. The outbreak of Covid-19 is making consumers pay attention to what they eat.

Nourish Organics, a company that sells organic, gluten-free and vegan food items, among others, saw its online sales increase about 30 per cent over the last month. The founder, Seema Jindal Jajodia, attributes most of this surge to the pandemic.

“Our breakfast cereals as well as bars have seen a surge in demand as people have stopped eating from restaurants due to the health scare,” Jajodia said

Hemp Horizons, a company that specialises in and sells sativa (hemp) products, also saw a 25 per cent increase in sales over the past couple of weeks. Rohit Shah, its CEO and co-founder, said consumers are leaning towards daily sativa nutritional products, namely Sativa Hemp Nubs, Sativa Hemp Powder and Sativa Hemp Oil.

Shah credits the surge in online sales to two reasons. “One, our regular customers are stocking up on their daily sativa nutrition. Two, we have seen a lot of first-time customers purchasing online,” he said, adding that they have seen an increase in queries and visitors on their website.

Greenobazaar, an online retailer of organic products including breakfast cereals, pulses, spices, seeds and herbs, also saw a 10 per cent increase in sales over the past couple of weeks. But this surge is from its regular customers who have been ordering more, said Rajan Patel, the company’s founder and CEO. The shift to organic products takes time because prices here are comparatively higher, he added.

This increase in demand for these companies is mostly from metropolitan and tier-1 cities. Data from Statista, an online statistics portal, shows that, based on a survey taken last year, just about 33 per cent of the population in India buys organic food often. Which is why, perhaps, the investment scenario in this space has been dismal. Data from Tracxn, a firm that tracks investments and financials of start-ups and private companies, shows that the funding that went into the organic food-tech sector in 2018 — $52.59 million — was the highest in the last 10 years, which then dropped to a mere $1.05 million last year.

Increased awareness

Due to the increased awareness among people to eat healthy, these companies are now upping the ante and re-launching existing products — case in point, the “Immunity Booster Bundle” by Nourish Organics, which includes amla bars, ginger oats cookies, and chia turmeric cookies. Hemp Horizons, on the other hand, has rolled out subscription plans on its platform that allow customers to create custom orders and get them delivered on designated dates.

But with the virus on the prowl, there is bound to be mayhem around. Specifically, because it is proved to spread through human contact. So companies are now ensuring minimum human handling and contactless delivery services. The current situation, if not abated, could make things worse for these firms. The restriction in movement, lockdown in various States and decline in manpower might make it difficult for them to keep the production and delivery going.

The number of delivery vehicles is going down due to drivers taking off and the delivery is getting delayed, said Shah. “We are also advising our workers to take paid leave if needed. Also, various cities and districts are in lockdown. This will impact our production logistics and supply of materials,” he added.

Published on March 24, 2020

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