Organic textiles have seen periodic increases in consumer affinity throughout the decades. While currently being in the midst of a surge of consumer interest in organic foods, one might reason the same can be said for organic textiles. Looking at the data tells a different story.
Organic foods are seeing a surge in consumer affinity. From news reports, blog articles, and especially social media—organic foods are often discussed as “the future.” It’s less clear how quickly organic textile markets are growing.
These markets include things like organic clothing, bedding, and accessories. Determining how markets are responding to these types of products is a bit harder to discern. Fortunately, there’s enough data to remove some of the mystery!
The Current State of Organic Textiles
Is the organic textile industry in a sorry state of affairs? In some respects, perhaps, but when it comes to organic cotton and linen, quite the contrary.
For materials such as wool, the growth of these markets has either stagnated or decreased, with organic wool by having seen a 28% drop in 2018 alone(PDF).
The big question for linen is just how organic and sustainable it is as a fabric. In 2018, organic linen and cotton increased their market shares respectively. Organic linen shows no concrete data, other than expected growth. According to Market Watch, there is an expected CAGR growth for organic linen in the realms of 10’s of millions.
For organic cotton, the growth is rapid, with a 67% increase in market share. While a step in the right direction, there is still plenty of room for this market to grow as prior to 2017, organic cotton accounted for 1% of all cotton production globally. An increase is positive, but the importance of continuing the growth to move away from conventional and GMO cotton remains important for the sustainability of the industry moving forward.
The growth of both of these organic materials is a reflection of two key industry trends within the retail market:
- The growth in consumer requirements for corporate social responsibility (CSR) plans and to purchase from brands with an aligned value to their own.
- A requirement for cleaning up the environmental impact resulting in new brands with ethical and environmentally-friendly behaviors.
With regard to consumer requirements, this is a result of millennial culture – 65% of consumers from 2017 buy based on their beliefs. This is an important finding and further assures the importance of CSR to improve brand-to-consumer relationships, but also reflects why so many startups and new businesses are ethical and environmentally-friendly straight off the bat.
Future of Organic within the Textile Industry
This relates to the trend that ethical consumerism is up 2.5% points in relation to inflation. The UK, in particular, is seeing high growth trends in desires for ethical consumerism. This is slowly becoming a factor within the US too, but at a slower scale.
These are but a few of the many new businesses being discovered by consumers who currently have a real thirst for ethical consumerism. The current issue, as reported by Intracen, is that the demand for organic materials, specifically cotton, is outweighing the supply, heavily.
Therefore, the current state for organic cotton requires more manufacturers to produce organic items, or they will risk losing consumers who are researching and finding ethical alternatives.
This trend has resulted in brands such as Stella McCartney and Tom Ford moving not only towards organic materials but animal-friendly materials, too. A reflection of conscious consumerism requiring cruelty-free and sustainable clothes and homeware.
In Focus – The Future of Organic Cotton
The signs of growth for organic cotton show no sign of holding up, either. GOTs certified facilities have increased by 14% in 2018. The growth of the industry respectively has shown the most growth in homeware and fashion, with homeware growing in organic cotton consumption by 64% and fashion by 22%, respectively.
With a 52% increase in consumers identifying as vegetarian or vegan, these consumers have a disposition with buying organic. Therefore, there will continue to be a real appetite for organic textiles, specifically cotton within the next 10 years. With 99% of the cotton market share owned by non-organic cotton, there is plenty of room for market share growth, too, as a result of the demand.
Furthermore, the number of businesses aligning their CSR towards organic is expected to continue to grow to stay within the demand curve for the younger, more conscious consumer. Additionally, the growth of new businesses with ethical and conscious beliefs is also expected to continue to grow and appeal to new buyer values.
For existing brands that aren’t aligned with this consumer desire, the likelihood of survival and market penetration is dependent on whether their audience changes their values or stick to being content with non-organic, environmentally-unfriendly and harmful materials. Only the future will tell.