Note: The goal of this series is to take a look at how to recognize a niche that is ready to go mainstream and how to make the transition and reap the benefits. It's not just organic food - so think about what niches exist in your business world that you can take mainstream and the series will stimulate some ideas.
At The Hip and Zen Pen Elisa Camahort has an interesting post on Supply and Demand for Greener Products. In the comments, Mary Ann writes that "green products should appear in mainstream stores and in the "regular" aisles of the grocery store, not just the health food stores or the health food section of the grocery store." On the other hand, Elisa wonders "who they do that for...current "green" shoppers may like the "special" placement of their choice."
As I pointed out in the first "Going Organic" post, current "organic" shoppers are a tiny minority of the total grocery shopping population. There is certainly an opportunity to market to dedicated organic or green shoppers. Their radar is tuned to products that match their values and they tend to be incredibly brand loyal. But, if you make changes to your product in order to attract the mid-level market, you stand a chance of losing the loyal core because your products may no longer align with their values. So you must be willing to take that risk for the potential reward. Also, core shoppers tend to look for "their" products in "their" stores so it can be important to stay focused on maintaining leadership in health food stores or in the natural aisle of conventional grocery stores and foregoing trying to make headway in the broader markets of mainstream stores.
Becoming a leader in a niche and remaining in niche channels can lead to growing and maintaining a successful business. Fast Company had a great article called The Man Who Said No to Wal-Mart (and just to show you how the analogy works - it's about lawn mowers) that illustrates this strategy beautifully - "Were we prepared to go large? ... No." However, if you want to move from the core and reach the mid-level you need to be where the mid-level consumers shop. For organic food this means the conventional grocery store, in the conventional aisle. There are consumers who are not committed to living a completely "green" lifestyle but who are interested in buying more green and organic products and incorporating them into their lives. However, if to do so consumers have to shop in two stores or shop twice in one grocery store it's not very likely that they will discover your products. If you are in the aisle, on the shelf where they are already shopping you greatly increase the odds that mid-level consumers will find you, check you out and consider adding you to their cart.
This means of course that you must be prepared to compete with the conventional products already there. But there are consumers that are out there adopting more and more green and organic products and are looking for options. If your product is the right one, being in the right place might just get a whole new crop of consumers to take you home.