Sources to multiply for organic ingredients?

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Organic ingredients, Organic food, Food

With the rise in organic processed food comes a leap in demand for
organic ingredients, but is it still early days for local
ingredients sourcing, asks Lindsey Partos.

Food manufacturers continue to enjoy strong demand for their organic food products.

Annual retail sales of organic foodstuffs have soared tenfold to top €1.51 billion in UK alone in the past decade, encouraging more growers and food makers to get involved.

And the surge in demand has been particularly evident in organic sausages, ready-meals, and baby food, report market analysts Organic Monitor​.

There are currently about 2000 organic food processors in the UK alone, with many of their products featuring multi-ingredient formulations.

DEFRA, the UK government's department for environment, food and rural affairs, is currently looking into where the processors actually source their ingredients used in the recipes, to investigate the measure of imports.

Often the organic ingredients, for example tea, are not available in the UK, nor will they ever be due to climactic concerns.

But the advent of other products, such as frozen organic ingredients, source from the UK could be a likelihood, says Simon Wright​, a consultant on organic foods.

Currently compiling a report on the sourcing of organic ingredients by the UK's 2000 food processors, his findings will not be available until later this year.

However, he stresses the opportunities that potentially exist for suppliers of organic ingredients.

"A recent survey by DEFRA found that after taste and health, locality was the third driving force for consumer purchases of organic foods,"​ comments Wright, stressing.

While structural barriers exist in building up sources of organic ingredients, gains could be maximised by UK suppliers playing to the strengths of the country's climate.

Obvious as this seems, they can not compete on organic vanilla or organic tea, but they can on brassicas, vegetables, high protein wheat for bread, for example.

But competition could still be tight. According to Wright, British Sugar has just pulled out of the UK organic market because of a lack in demand. Their product had to compete with the less expensive imported cane sugar from Brazil.

On the flip side, natural flavour companies, such as UK-based Claremont Ingredients, supplying flavours compatible with organic rules -synthetic or nature-identical unacceptable - are enjoying a certain success.

Rules that govern the labelling of organic foods come from Regulation EC2092/91, and are, as for all labels, designed to ensure that consumers are not misled.

For a product to be termed 'organic' it must meet the standards of an approved independent control body, which has inspected all aspects of its production.

Labels must indicate the organic certification body with which the processor or packer is registered. The rules are the same for manufactured foods with one or more organic ingredients.

For example, in the case of bread the label might say "wholemeal bread baked from organic flour" or "organic wholemeal bread".

The EU regulation recognises that it is not yet possible to make products entirely from organic ingredients.

As a result the manufacturer can use up to 5 per cent of certain non-organic food ingredients and still label the product as organic. However, genetically-modified ingredients and artificial food additives are never allowed in organic foods.

For foods which contain 70 to 95 per cent organic ingredients the word organic appears only in the ingredients list and as a description on the front of label to show the percentage of ingredients which are organic.

Underlining strong demand, since DEFRA launched its organic action plan for the entire food supply chain, the country has seen a 46 per cent rise in organic produce provided by UK farms.

Reflecting the growing popularity of this food sector, food scientists in the UK recently compiled an updated comment on organic food.

"The production of organic food requires the same involvement of professional food scientists and technologists and is subject to the same requirements of good manufacturing practice and food safety as the rest of the food industry,"​ says the Institute of Food Science & Technology.

Related topics: Market Trends

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