IFOAM: Organic must innovate to break out of niche status

By Niamh Michail contact

- Last updated on GMT

IFOAM's online Technology Innovation Platform promotes and facilitates scientific research that can benefit all stakeholders in the organic industry
IFOAM's online Technology Innovation Platform promotes and facilitates scientific research that can benefit all stakeholders in the organic industry

Related tags: Organic food, Soil association

Organic sales are growing but the sector remains niche with market share in single figures, says one industry group – but innovative practice and partnerships could change this.

For David Gould of international organic organisation IFOAM: “Organic products are gaining more mainstream consumer uptake, but even in the best national scenarios, market share is still in the single digits.

"We are working to make market access easier and market guarantees more credible through proposing innovative additions … [which] can serve both producers and consumers.”

‘Show the market the evidence’

“Organic methods are already proven to be real solutions to major global problems such as climate change and malnutrition. But in order for organic to really become the recognised choice for attaining global ecological sustainability and societal well being, we must continue to show the market and policy makers the evidence we have,” ​said Gould.

To convince the market, the best way to start may simply be to point at the current figures – according to the Soil Association UK sales of organics rose 4% last year to over £1.86bn and are predicted to break the £2bn barrier in 2016.

The Soil Association report said: “This reinvigoration [following a slump in organic sales during the recession] may be partly related to an improving economy, but it’s also testament to the fact that retailers and manufacturers who continued to invest in organic lines have continued to thrive.”

Organic is not only making its way into discount lines – last year ALDI launched its range of budget organic products – but it is also leading the way in terms of new product launches.

At the Natural Food Show which will take place in London this weekend, over 300 entries have been submitted to the new product development showcase, with the highest number of entries in the organic food and drink category.

IFOAM will hold two conferences in South Korea in October 2015:

2-3 October - Marketing and Innovation in Organic Farming

9-11 October - Organic 3.0: The Next Phase of Organic Development – Visions, Trends and Innovations

It is currently calling on people to submit abstracts before the 24th​ April.

One example of innovation that Gould gives is IFOAM and BioC’s global organic certification directory​, a database where producers, traders and governments can search for certified organic suppliers and companies from over 60,000 names.

The directory also has a ‘naming and shaming’ page which lists companies that fraudulently claim to be organic.

"Another way we encourage innovation is by reaching beyond the more "nuclear" organic community, forming alliances with like-minded organizations," ​he said.

The Carbon Underground, The Organic & Natural Health Association and Food Day were examples of such partnerships, he said, still currently in the process of being formed.

"The outreach to like-minded organisations is a key strategy of the organic movement now, to contribute more broadly and share the benefits we have,​" he added.

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