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US organic sales rise 9.3%

Supermarket shelves
Photo: Organic fresh F&V in US store by Eurofresh Distribution

Sales of organic fresh fruit and vegetables in the US climbed 9.3% Y-O-Y in the first 3 months of 2021, reaching $2.2 billion, according to Organic Produce Network data. Retail sales grew in all organic segments due to restaurant closures and outpaced conventional produce sales, which rose by only 2.9%. In volume terms, sales of organic fresh produce grew by 5.7%, while sales of conventional produce slipped 0.6%.

Of the top 10 categories, only organic carrots and apples dropped in value and volume during the first quarter. Packaged salads remain the largest organic segment, accounting for 17% of all organic sales. Sales of organic packaged salads grew by 9.5% in value during the first quarter of 2021. Another key category is organic berries, which accounted for around 15% of total organic produce sales during the first quarter. Sales of berries increased by 8.8% during the first 3 months of 2021.

Matt Seeley, CEO of Organic Produce Network, said: “Once again, sales of organic fresh produce continue to be a major growth opportunity for retailers across the country. At the same time, as the country enters a post-COVID environment, with restaurants reopening and other foodservice options available, it appears the double-digit growth rate will be slowing.” 

 

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Eosta pushes mangoes and avocados with Living Wage premium

Eosta pushes mangoes and avocados with Living Wage premium
Photo: Eosta

In 2020, organic fruit and vegetable importer Eosta became the first in the world to put a Living Wage product on shop shelves: the Living Wage mango from Zongo Adama in Burkina Faso. Eosta customers paid 10 cents more per kilo of mangoes to ensure Zongo’s employees earn a living wage. A second product will be added in April 2021: Living Wage avocados from Anthony Ngugi in Kenya. Unlike the mangoes, Eosta customers will now not be given a choice – if you want to sell Anthony’s avocados, you have to pay the living wage price, which is 2 cents per kilo more.

Living Wage is a new concept in food retail practice. A living wage allows for a decent standard of living for a family, and is usually higher than the local minimum wage. If we truly want to eradicate poverty and give people a fair chance, products must be priced to pay a living wage. Although many organizations are conducting extensive studies on Living Wage, Eosta is the first company to bring Living Wage to the shop and to the consumer. The launch of avocados will be followed by Zongo’s mangoes later in April.

In order to be able to sell the Kenyan avocados as Living Wage, an inventory of the incomes of Anthony Ngugi’s 83 employees and the standard of living in Kenya was carried out in the fall of 2020. Eosta followed the protocol of the development organization the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), using their calculation method. This year, for the first time, a review of the calculation by an auditor took place, which is a first step toward Living Wage certification. A Kenyan employee of the international auditor Sedex conducted the inventory. Formal certification of Living Wage does not exist yet, but this is an important step in that direction.

The study showed that adding 2 cents per kilo to the price of avocados is necessary to provide a living wage. Major retailers in Scandinavia, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands have shown interest. The first pioneers in 2020 were health food stores in Germany and Austria. During the summer season, Eosta sold over 100,000 kilos of Living Wage mangoes to them. The premium collected was enough to cover 40% of the wage gap for Zongo Adama warehouse workers.

 

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EU lays out roadmap to 25% organic farming

EU lays out roadmap to 25% organic farming
Photo: Retail Italy by Eurofresh Distribution

The European Commission has published the EU Organic Action Plan for 2021-2030. As part of the Farm to Fork Strategy, the Action Plan aims to increase organic agriculture in the EU and to have at least 25% of the EU’s agricultural land under organic farming by 2030. To reach this objective, the European Commission aims to boost consumption of organic food in the EU and stimulate conversion to organic farming. The Action Plan is also intended to increase the contribution of organic farming to the sustainability of the European agriculture sector. Success of the Action Plan will depend on implementation at the Member State level and how the Member States encourage increased production and promotion of organic products as well as consumer willingness to buy organic.

 

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Made in Nature: Brio’s organic green kiwi starred in Germany

Made in Nature: Brio's organic green kiwi starred in Germany
PRESS RELEASE

The initiative is part of promotional activities of Made in Nature, the European project funded by CSO Italy, and will include in-store activity in 100 stores of the German chain Tegut

Zevio – Promoting the values ​​and the culture of organic fruit and vegetables in Italy, France and Germany is the goal of Made in Nature, the Cso Italy project funded by the European Union which sees the most important companies in the production and marketing of fruit and vegetables as protagonists. Italian organic producers include Canova, Conserve Italia, Lagnasco Group, RK Growers, Veritas Biofrutta, Mazzoni and Brio.

Brio’s organic green kiwi will be the protagonist, from 5 to 9 April, of an important promotional action in 100 stores of Tegut in Germany with dedicated islands and information material.

“After the positive experience of the previous promotional campaign – comments Brio’s export manager, Anton Carra – we are happy to strengthen the collaboration with Tegut, a historic German brand that has been synonymous with quality organic products for over 40 years. The project, which includes numerous B2B and B2C activities, saw a first week of activity at the beginning of March with excellent feedback from consumers: thanks to this new initiative we are sure that a growing number of German consumers will appreciate the superior organoleptic qualities of our organic Hayward kiwifruit ”.

The Tegut distribution chain has been one of the most significant realities for the assortment of organic and natural products since the 1980s. Part of the Swiss Migros group, Tegut has a turnover of over one billion euros: over a quarter of its turnover derives from biological references distributed in over 100 points of sale in the Land of Hesse, Thuringia, Bavaria and the cities of Göttingen. Mainz, Stuttgart and Ludwigsburg.

“Projects like Made in Nature – concludes Carra – represent an exceptional showcase for Italian organic fruit and vegetables: for Brio this operation in the Tegut stores represents an excellent vehicle to reach even more widespread a market that has always shown great interest for quality organic products “.

Made in Nature continues its promotional activities, proposing innovative communication formats, dedicated to consumers in Italy, France and Germany with the fresh and processed organic product of the leading Italian production companies.

For information: www.madeinnature.org

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European Green Deal: Commission presents actions to boost organic production

European Green Deal: Commission presents actions to boost organic production
Photo: Eurofresh Distribution

Last week, the Commission presented an Action Plan for the development of organic production. Its overall aim is to boost the production and consumption of organic products, to reach 25% of agricultural land under organic farming by 2030, as well as to increase organic aquaculture significantly.

Organic production comes with a number of important benefits: organic fields have around 30% more biodiversity, organically farmed animals enjoy a higher degree of animal welfare and take less antibiotics, organic farmers have higher incomes and are more resilient, and consumers know exactly what they are getting thanks to the EU organic logo. The Action Plan is in line with the European Green Deal and the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies.

The Action Plan is designed to provide the already fast growing organic sector the right tools to achieve the 25% target. It puts forward 23 actions structured around 3 axes – boosting consumption, increasing production, and further improving the sustainability of the sector – to ensure a balanced growth of the sector.

The Commission encourages Member States to develop national organic action plans to increase their national share of organic farming. There are significant differences between Member States regarding the share of agricultural land currently under organic farming, ranging from 0.5% to over 25%. The national organic action plans will complement the national CAP strategic plans, by setting out measures that go beyond agriculture and what is offered under the CAP.

Promote consumption

Growing consumption of organic products will be crucial to encourage farmers to convert to organic farming and thus increase their profitability and resilience. To this end, the Action Plan puts forward several concrete actions aimed at boosting demand, maintaining consumer trust and bringing organic food closer to citizens. This includes: informing and communicating about organic production, promoting the consumption of organic products, stimulating a greater use of organics in public canteens through public procurement and increasing the distribution of organic products under the EU school scheme. Actions also aim, for example, at preventing fraud, increasing consumers’ trust and improving traceability of organic products. The private sector can also play a significant role by, for example, rewarding employees with ‘bio-cheques’ they can use to purchase organic food.

Increase production

Presently, about 8.5% of EU’s agricultural area is farmed organically, and the trends show that with the present growth rate, the EU will reach 15-18% by 2030. This Action Plan provides the toolkit to make an extra push and reach 25%. While the Action Plan largely focuses on the “pull effect” of the demand side, the Common Agricultural Policy will remain a key tool for supporting the conversion. Currently, around 1.8% (€7.5 billion) of CAP is used to support organic farming. The future CAP will include eco-schemes which will be backed by a budget of €38 – 58 billion, for the period 2023 – 2027, depending on the outcome of the CAP negotiations. The eco-schemes can be deployed to boost organic farming.

Beyond the CAP, key tools include organisation of information events and networking for sharing best practices, certification for groups of farmers rather than for individuals, research and innovation, use of blockchain and other technologies to improve traceability increasing market transparency, reinforcing local and small-scale processing, supporting the organisation of the food chain and improving animal nutrition.

To raise awareness on organic production, the Commission will organise an annual EU ‘Organic day’ as well as awards in the organic food chain, to recognise excellence at all steps of the organic food chain. The Commission will also encourage the development of organic tourism networks through ‘biodistricts’. ‘Biodistricts’ are areas where farmers, citizens, tourist operators, associations and public authorities work together towards the sustainable management of local resources, based on organic principles and practices.

The Action Plan also notes that organic aquaculture production remains a relatively new sector but has a significant potential for growth. The upcoming new EU guidelines on the sustainable development of EU aquaculture, will encourage Member States and stakeholders to support the increase in organic production in this sector.

Improve sustainability

Finally, it also aims to further improve organic farming’s performance in terms of sustainability. To achieve this, actions will focus on improving animal welfare, ensuring the availability of organic seeds, reducing the sector’s carbon footprint, and minimising the use of plastics, water and energy.

The Commission also intends to increase the share of research and innovation (R&I) and dedicate at least 30% of the budget for research and innovation actions in the field of agriculture, forestry and rural areas to topics specific to or relevant for the organic sector.

The Commission will closely monitor progress through a yearly follow-up with representatives of the European Parliament, Member States and stakeholders, through bi-annual progress reports and a mid-term review.

Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, said: “Agriculture is one of the main drivers of biodiversity loss, and biodiversity loss is a major threat to agriculture. We urgently need to restore balance in our relationship with nature. This is not something farmers face alone, it involves the whole food chain. With this Action Plan, we aim to boost demand for organic farming, help consumers make informed choices, and support European farmers in their transition. The more land we dedicate to organic farming, the better the protection of biodiversity in that land and in surrounding areas.”

Agriculture Commissioner, Janusz Wojciechowski, said: “The organic sector is recognised for its sustainable practices and use of resources, giving its central role in achieving the Green Deal objectives. To achieve the 25% of organic farming target, we need to ensure that demand drives the growth of the sector while taking into account the significant differences between each Member State’s organic sectors. The organic Action Plan provides tools and ideas to accompany a balanced growth of the sector. The development will be supported by the Common Agricultural Policy, research and innovation as well as close cooperation with key actors at EU, national and local level.”

 

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Endinava enters organic market

Endinava enters organic market
Photo: Endinava

Located on the banks of the Navarra river, Endinava has over 40 years of experience growing and distributing endives. Seven years ago, the firm started producing lettuce hydroponically and is now embarking on another adventure: organic figs, with 2021 marking its first campaign. “We are very excited about this project that began 4 years ago with the preparation and planting of more than 20 hectares of organic farming. Our goal is to export to all of Europe and to parts of the world that value the great quality of our products,” said Carlos Menchaca of Endinava’s export department. For this campaign, the company expects to obtain 150,000 kg of organic figs. Meanwhile, although Endinava’s lettuce remains highly valued product in the food service channel, due to the uncertainty caused by COVID-19, it has been difficult to grow in this area. Nevertheless, Endinava will continue to focus on its quality and carefully crafted products.

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REO Veiling: increasingly becoming a leader in tomatoes

REO Veiling: more and more a leader in tomatoes
PRESS RELEASE

 

REO’s main products are now tomatoes, which have surpassed the auction’s renowned leeks and other Belgian vegetables.

In 2020, tomato volumes reached over 64,240 tons at the Roeselare REO Veiling, ahead of the leeks, which are now stable at around 55,000 tons per year. Glasshouse vegetable production has almost doubled over the last 3 years, with 33,800 tons marketed in 2017. Production of other vegetables remains rather stable (see table below): 56,858 tons of leek, 9.5 million punnets of strawberry, 16.6 tons of endives, 9.4 million punnets of mushrooms, 37 million cucumbers, and 33.7 million heads of lettuce. Despite Covid-19 and the drought in May and June 2020, REO Veiling still had a good year. “Many people started to cook for themselves and used fresh vegetables for that,” said REO’s commercial manager Dominiek Keersebilck. The turnover of around €207 million was just €800,000 less than the record set in 2019. “We can look back on a successful year, with growth in supply of 2.5%. That is a record,” said Keersebilck.

Top 12 products of REO Veiling

1

Tomatoes

69.2 million

kg

2

Leek

56.9 million

kg

3

Strawberries

9.5 million

punnets

4

Endive

16.6 million

kg

5

Mushrooms

9.5 million

punnets

6

Butterhead lettuce

33.8 million

heads

7

Cucumber

37.7 million

pieces

8

Courgettes

30.1 million

pieces

9

Convenience

5.4 million

kg

10

Cauliflower

4.2 million

heads

11

Celeriac

7.3 million

pieces

12

White cabbage

6.2 million

heads

   

More sales to Benelux and southern European countries

REO exclusively sells the products of its members, who are based in Belgium and northern France. Due to the pandemic, Benelux countries now account for a larger part of turnover. France is the leading export market, accounting for 86% of the total volume. Germany and the UK are also key destinations. “We have been closely following everything around Brexit, and we are convinced that due to our location and the image of our products, such as leek, beef tomatoes and strawberries, we will strengthen our advantage on the UK market, in close cooperation with the main Belgian exporters,” said Keersebilck. Southern European countries are also becoming more important for the exports of the REO Veiling, in particular for open-field vegetables like leek and lettuce.

 

 

 

Flandria, Fine Fleur and Tomabel premium brands

The REO Veiling markets 3 brands: Flandria, Fine Fleur and Tomabel. “With Flandria and Fine Fleur, we focus promotion on the Belgian consumer through a variety of actions,” said Keersebilck. Cooperation with the famous European volleyball team Knack Roeselare allows REO to combine top sports, healthy vegetables and champion quality. Regarding packaging, there will be a major shift from fixed blue crates to foldable green crates in 2021. In cooperation with Europool Systems, REO is adapting and investing in new washing lines, as well as in automatic inbound and outbound processes. The auction will also develop new packaging for its top brand Tomabel, starting with strawberries.

Belgian reputation in Asia and Canada

Field vegetables from Belgium are popular specialties supplied by airfreight to long-distance markets like Canada, South Korea, Hong Kong and Japan. Among these products are curly endive, Belgian endive and special-grown leek. “We want to introduce more open-field varieties in Canada like celeriac and leek. We are also working on products containing no soil,” said Keersebilck, who also believes in the market potential of celeriac in South-East Asia, even if the pandemic currently makes it somewhat difficult to introduce new items to foreign markets.

Food safety & sustainability strategies at REO

The auction provides all the certifications required by its customers. The 10 major ones are:

  • Unitar SDG Pioneer Award 2020: REO Veiling was the first to receive the award with 88 other laureates. It recognises the numerous sustainability actions undertaken within the context of the 17 United Nations Development Goals (SDGs) over the last 3 years.
  • ACS Handel or Self-Checking Guide for trade and processing of potatoes, fruit, vegetable, and it is issued by Integra. The guide contains all the requirements and recommendations relating to food safety (including traceability and reporting obligation) and quality (considerations under the authority of the FASFC), which apply to potato, fruit and vegetable processing facilities and in trade involving PFV products.
  • Organic business certificate for companies processing organic products (issued by Integra).
  • Productcertificat Flandria® quality label,
  • FCA (Feed Chain Alliance): food for the animal feed sector, issued by Promag.
  • ISO 22000 governing food safety
  • IFS certificate issued by Integra
  • QS certificate issued by Integra
  • OVM certificate issued by the Job Centre West Flanders, a not-for-profit organisation.

REO Veiling is also investing heavily in communication and big data. The Care4Growing mobile app developed with partners is a good example of investment in technology aimed at raising competitiveness in the supply-chain.

Food surplus and waste management

REO Veiling is a pioneer in the fight against food waste in Europe. In 2017, it won the very first Food Waste Award, issued by FSE Networks in collaboration with OVAM and Komosie. Every year, REO Veiling sells about 250,000 tons of home-grown fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables. To deal with food waste, it seeks useful partnerships for these products. In the first instance, surplus food goes to the food banks of West Flanders, East Flanders, Hainaut and Namur. As a result, 500,000kg of fresh fruit and vegetables, or an average of 1 articulated lorry trailer per week, is sent to underprivileged people every year. In addition, surplus waste is also re-used to feed animals. Indeed, REO Veiling is the only Flemish vegetable auction which is FCA-certified to reuse its products as animal fodder. And it is not only dairy cows from the same region that are fed with REO products, but also animals in Bellwaerde (animal and amusement park).

enVie combines food waste and social engagement

The social enterprise enVie now allows the Belgian people to enjoy delicious soups that are “full of commitment”: each bottle of soup is made in Brussels from surplus fresh Belgian vegetables by a motivated team of employees who, through the project, have become reintegrated into the labour market after a long period of unemployment. REO Veiling supplies surplus fresh vegetables to enVie, mainly those that are suitable for making soup (e.g. courgette, leek, celery, tomato, etc.). “As a grower’s cooperative, we believe in the absolute added value of cooperation to tackle issues such as sustainability and food waste. By working together with our various partners in a targeted way, we can still make use of surplus fruit and vegetables, which means added value for us as a producer, the social enterprise and ultimately also the consumer,” said Dominiek Keersebilck, commercial director of REO Veiling. Via this initiative, EnVie has created an extra sales channel for REO Veiling in its fight against food waste.

Vacuum cooler for leafy vegetables

REO Veiling has a vacuum cooler. A vacuum is created in the vacuum box. As a result, the water evaporates at room temperature. Together with the water, heat is extracted from the lettuce, as a result of which, it is quickly refrigerated and the product can be kept for much longer. This means that the lettuce can remain longer on store shelves or can be transported by lorry to remote destinations such as Spain and Italy. REO Veiling also encourages the use of multi-use packaging for its products. The packaging comes in virtually all colours, sizes and materials, based on the customer’s preferences.

Rapid growth in organics

Organics have registered rapid growth at the REO Veiling. The main product is organically certified Tomabel special mushroom. Other key products are leek and celeriac, as well as niche products like Babyleaf. “We will continue to grow in organics,” said Keersebilck.

REO Veiling turnover with organics

2017

€6 million

2018

€7.3 million

2019

€7.9 million

2020

€10.3million

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IFOAM Organics Europe welcomes new organic action plan

IFOAM Organics Europe welcomes new organic action plan
PRESS RELEASE

 

Brussels, 25 March 2021 – The organic food and farming movement welcomes today’s publication of the European Organic Action Plan 2021-2027, and particularly its “push-pull” approach, aiming at balancing increases in both production and demand of organic products.

Jan Plagge, President of IFOAM Organics Europe welcomed that “the EU Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies put organic farming at the heart of a transition to sustainable food systems, with a target to reach 25% organic land on average by 2030 and with the publication of a new EU organic action plan, which will mark a new era for the transformation of our food systems towards organic and agroecology”. He added that “the Commission has put forward concrete steps to boost organic demand such as the €49 million budget for organic within the promotion policies framework as well as the integration of organic products into the minimum mandatory criteria for sustainable public procurement. Given the importance of knowledge in organic food systems and the role that organic practices play in the internalisation of external costs, allocating at least 30% of the Horizon Europe funding for agriculture, forestry and rural areas to topics relevant for the organic sector, as well as carrying out a study on the real price of food and the role of taxation are timely steps forward”. Jan Plagge added that he already looks forward to the annual EU ‘Organic Day’ which will be an ideal opportunity to take stock of how the organic action plan is performing.

Eduardo Cuoco, director of IFOAM Organics Europe said that “we must not forget the importance of the involvement of national, regional and even local actors for this action plan to be as successful as possible in reaching the 25% organic target and transitioning towards more sustainable food systems. This action plan provides tools for Member States to fully tap into the potential of organic farming to regenerate European agriculture and to reconcile farming and nature. Specifically, involvement beyond the EU level is vital for actions related to public procurement, promotion, the implementation of bio-districts, to name but a few”. On the CAP, Eduardo Cuoco added that “this action plan now needs to be implemented by Member States through their national CAP strategic plans. Therefore, the organic movement welcomes that the Commission will ensure Member States make the best use of the possibilities offered by the new CAP to support their national organic sector and that farm advisory services will be strengthened.  It is time to properly reward organic farmers as well as conventional farmers transitioning to organic for the benefits they deliver to nature and society, and to properly fund farm advisory systems geared towards organic and other agroecological practices”. 

IFOAM Organics Europe looks forward to collaborating with relevant institutions and interested stakeholders to make this new organic action plan a success, through concrete and workable actions on the ground.

For more information please visit www.organicseurope.bio

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UK organic sector reports record growth in 2020

UK organic sector reports record growth in 2020
Photo:Creative Commons

The UK organic market grew 12.6% in 2020 and is now worth £2.8 billion, according to Soil Association Certification’s Organic Market Report 2021. This is the highest growth rate seen in 15 years, with over £50 million per week spent on organic food and drink during 2020. 

The online channel has fuelled much of this growth, with e-commerce sales up 36.2% in 2020. This channel now accounts for almost 25% of total sales. Meanwhile, sales of organic items in supermarkets increased by 12.5% per cent, with fresh produce sales up by 15.5%. Organic carrots performed best in this category, with sales soaring by 17.2%.

Sophie Kirk, senior business development manager, Soil Association Certification, said: “The unprecedented crisis of 2020 has brought immense challenges for organic farmers and the entire food supply chain. So it’s heartening that in times of crisis, more people are supporting home – grown organic produce, with many British organic products such as eggs, cheese, carrots, beef and lamb benefitting from strong sales growth through supermarkets this year.”

The UK organic market is on track to be worth £2.9 billion by the end of 2021, with many new organic shoppers expected to remain loyal to the sector.

 

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Canada publishes revised organic standards

Canada publishes revised organic standards
Photo: Loblaw Companies Limited

On December 11, 2020, the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) published a revised version of the Canadian Organic Standards – the set of principles, guidelines, and permitted substances by the Canada Organic Regime (COR). A concurrent Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) notice officially communicated the changes to organic stakeholders, highlighting the implementation period (generally 12 months) for the new versions of the standards.

All organic operators subject to the COR must be fully compliant with the new versions of the standards by November 26, 2021. Operations certified organic before the revised standards were announced on December 11, 2020, are encouraged to comply with the new versions of the standards throughout the implementation period. Organic products and ingredients certified organic under the previous standards (i.e., before December 11, 2020), can continue to be marketed as organic even after the implementation period ends on December 11, 2021.

Included within the 2020 revisions to the Canadian Organic Standards are measures to increase flexibility for organic operations during periods of natural disaster as well as to establish organic operators’ responsibility to protect and promote biodiversity. The Organic Federation of Canada (OFC) has published a side-by-side comparison of the original and revised sections of the Canadian Organic Standards, highlighting the 2020 modifications.

Canada defines organic production as a “holistic system designed to optimize the productivity and fitness of diverse communities within the agro-ecosystem, including soil organisms, plants, livestock, and people. The principal goal of organic production is to develop operations that are sustainable and harmonious with the environment.”