The term organic refers to defined food production and farming practices, and consumer awareness of the term – and willingness to pay a premium for certified organic products – has soared in recent years.
But according to the UK-based market analyst, the organic production method only partially meets consumers’ expectations. “They are increasingly looking at ethical sourcing, traceability, the carbon footprint, sustainability and corporate social responsibility”.
It says that savvy food firms are marketing their organic products on these principles.
Given that the organic market has seen reduced growth in the recession, delivering on the values that consumers are seeking out could help companies maintain good sales.
Organic Monitor says global organic food sales have been increasing by US$5bn a year in recent years – but this year they may, for the first time, see only single digit growth as consumers cut back on spending.
The UK market is said to have been worst hit, with just 2 per cent growth reported in 2008.
The Soil Association’s view on different ethical standards differs somewhat to Organic Montitor’s. In a podcast interview with FoodNavigator.com in April Peter Melchett, policy director said organic does not sit alongside other single claims like free-range, local, pesticide free and fair trade – it sits above them.
“All organic animals are free-range as well, and there are lots of other benefits. There are no mutilations or almost none, healthier diets and so on.
“It is better for farmland and wildlife than schemes designed to make non-organic farming less wildlife un-friendly. It is best for animal welfare according to groups like Compassion in World Farming and it is best for environmental sustainability according to the [UK] government’s Sustainable Development Commission.
“That is what we have to communication. It is a way of betting all these benefits and some very good, healthy food too.”
So-called Organic Plus initiatives currently being employed by food firms include ethical sourcing of organic cocoa by Green & Blacks.
Some forms are also investing in developing or war-torn countries. For instance, Canaan Fair Trade in Palestine became the first company to offer organic and fair trade olive oil from the region.
Others, like organic fruit and vegetable trader EOSTA, are off-setting the carbon emissions from food production.
Organic Monitor is organising the Sustainable Foods Summit in Amsterdam from June 25th to 27th. More information on the event is available from firstname.lastname@example.org.