Analysts predict continued sustainable growth for organic

The market for organic food and drink in the European Union grew overall by 6% in 2012 (to €20.9 billion) according to data presented at last week’s Biofach Congress. Figures show that North American markets saw markedly stronger growth, with organic sales in the US rising 11% to $32 billion and Canada reporting a hike of 10%, taking sales to $3.5 billion.

Analysts predict similar levels of “sustainable growth” for the coming year, equating to high single digit growth for some EU countries and growth closer to 10% in North America.

Latest European data published by the organic research specialists FiBL shows that Germany is the country with the highest sales of organic food and drink in Europe at €7.04 billion, followed by France (€4.04bn), the UK (€1.95bn), Italy (€1.85bn), Switzerland (€1.52bn), Austria (€1.06bn), Spain (€.98bn), Denmark (€.88bn), and the Netherlands (€.79bn).

Denmark is shown to be the country with the highest organic market share of total food and drink sales (at 7.6%), followed by Austria (6.5%), Switzerland (6.3%), Sweden (3.9%) and Germany (3.7%). Switzerland meanwhile tops the list of countries with the highest per capita spend on organic (with an average spend per consumer of €189), followed by Denmark (€159), Luxembourg (€143), Lichtenstein (€129) and Austria (€127).

Looking at data spanning 10 years, FiBL’s Helga Willer noted that the growth trajectory for the majority of EU countries had been similar (albeit from widely differing start points) – the UK being the only EU country to see a market value decline during the recession (although returning to modest growth in 2013).

Presenting the US and Canadian data, Matthew Holmes, executive director of Canada Organic Trade Association, said that Canada had seen organic sales triple in value in just three years to $3.5bn, making it the joint fourth biggest market (with the UK) in the world. Holmes said growth of around 9-10% was expected in 2014.

Double digit growth is expected too in the US, driven by growing consumer concern around GMOs, antibiotics and pesticides. Holmes said that the GMO labelling campaign was continuing to gather pace in the US (two states passed GMO labelling laws in 2013,) and highlighted a decision by General Mills to switch to a non-GMO corn starch source allowing its flagship brand Cheerios to be re-labelled as ‘non-GMO’.

In global market terms the US organic market (by country) remains by far the biggest, commanding 44% of worldwide organic sales, followed by Germany (14%), France (8%) the UK, Italy and Canada (each at 4%) and Switzerland (3%) and the rest of the world adding up to 19%.