The organic market appears to be going from strength to strength, especially if this year’s BioFach exhibition is anything to go by. With over 2,000 exhibitors from 70 countries and more than 30,000 visitors, the show reflected the increasing maturity of the market and the importance of innovation, as Bruce Hoggard reports.
The organic market continues to develop worldwide as new countries and consumers realise the health and market potential of this industry. The United States continues to show 20% growth in many organic areas and the emergence of new eastern European suppliers and consumers is adding to the establishment of organics in the mainstream. After a year of spotted growth in the German organic sector during 2003 and early 2004, the remainder of the year saw a rebound to strong growth once again. The improvement translated into a strong and vibrant version of BioFach 2005, where the excitement and commitment of the buyers, consumers and producers was noticeable. Although the show was held one week later than usual, from 24 to 27 February, it still welcomed more than 30,000 visitors, with more than one-third being international attendees.
The popular Friday night parties hosted by many companies and pavilions were once again a hit with the visitors as was the Country of the Year party hosted by Brazil on the Saturday night.
In its16th year, the show finally broke the 2,000 exhibitor mark; it recovered from the decrease experienced last year with a record 2,035 exhibitors from 70 countries throughout eight of the numerous exhibition halls. There were several new country additions this year with Laos, Malta and Panama making their first appearances.
The show’s Patron, IFOAM, (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements) once again had a strong presence. With its mission to ‘lead, unite and assist the organic movement in its full diversity’, and ‘the worldwide adoption of ecologically, socially and economically sound systems based on the principles of organic agriculture’, it is a shame it cannot get the organic industry to manage its calendar better. The 15th IFOAM Organic World Congress will be held in Adelaide, Australia, from 20 to 23 September 2005. However, this means September is extremely busy as the organic industry tries to accommodate Organic Products Expo-BioFach America on 16 to 18 September and BioFach Japan on 21 to 23 September. It is a shame BioFach America was moved from its 2004 October dates; however, it would then have conflicted with ANUGA, the food show of the year.
Companies focus on value-added products
During this year’s BioFach, it became clear the organic industry is reaching new levels of maturity compared to where it was even two years ago.
The first indication was the increased number of value-added companies exhibiting at the show compared to previous years. Although several companies buying and selling organic commodities and raw materials still exhibit, the focus has shifted to producing and selling consumer ready products for the table. These products are becoming more sophisticated and offering organic choices across a wider range of conventional food products. As this trend continues, consumers will have an increased choice and the percentage of organic products they purchase will also increase, bringing the organic industry new growth opportunities.
A good example of this shift to value-added products was Rapunzel’s move, in the past two years, from being a commodities broker to providing its own line of consumer products. In many circumstances, these products are in direct competition to its previous German customers. This year it added a new cereal – Poppies (puffed oats) – as well as chocolate bars, snack foods, nuts and penne noodles.
The other indication of the organic industry moving more mainstream and becoming more mature is BioTropic’s launch of an organic private label called “Green”. This private label, recognised by its simple white-over-green background with a red box and the word “green”, is offering quality organic products at lower prices and closer if not equal to similar conventional food offerings. At the Trade Show, “green” introduced 21 new product selections. These supplement its current and extensive list including coffee, ketchup, apple juice, lasagna and other noodles, and margarine. Its range of products also includes the more commodity-based products such as flax and sesame seeds.
In fact “green” is not the only company bringing prices of organic products closer to conventional food prices. Whole Foods, the leading organic retailer in the United States, depending on the time of year has numerous organic products at the same or close to conventional food prices.
Although Whole Foods has entered the UK market, having purchased Fresh and Wild, it has, according to Walter Robb, the president and COO, “no immediate plans to enter the German market, although the company is reviewing its European options”.
New products on display
One of BioFach’s appeals is its new products display. This year it offered an array of 220 new and innovative products in five categories. This year the winner of the Product Innovation Award was the Vitaquell Tofu as Noodles from Fauser Vitaquellwerk KG. This product, looking like green fettuccine, has no eggs or milk and is gluten free, many of the characteristics appealing to the organic consumer.
Another new product recognised by the panel of judges as the Product of the Year was FZ Organic Food’s TRA’FO Potato Chips Light. This Netherlands company’s product is fried in 100% extra virgin olive oil. However, the secret to removing the undesirable characteristics from the potato is achieved by the process being done in a vacuum oven. The chips are offered in natural and Paprika flavours with more flavours planned for the future. The chips were crisp and tasted fine as a “healthy” replacement to standard potato chips.
With the emergence of organic products in all conventional types of foods and other industries, a new focus is on organic pregnancy. One company in this area is Vitagermine, a French company that launched its Luna brand, the first brand in Europe specially formulated for pregnant women. The products range from muesli, vegetable soup, breakfast biscuits and an infusion from red vine leaves to an apple and prune compote, in its popular squeezable pouch from the Kali Bio line. The final product is yeast flakes to sprinkle over food. This new brand was a natural extension as Vitagermine also has the babynat brand for newborn babies and infants, and the Kali Bio Brand, with products for children aged 3 to 12 years. In this last category, the more popular products are the 100% fruit snacks in squeezable pouches, cereal bars with chocolate chips and animal shaped cookies with chocolate topping.
One of the growing trends in organics is the idea of Fair Trade. This is where the producers, normally in developing countries, are paid a fair and equitable price for their products. Many of these are viewed as commodities and are price driven in the conventional food category.
Fair trade cola bears
One of the founding companies of Fair Trade and the oldest participant at more than 30 years is the German company GEPA. Known for its coffee, tea and biscuits, GEPA launched a new bio Cola Gummi Bear in January 2005 as a line extension to its already popular bio Bear line of products. Made with bio gelatin and Fair Trade sugar (Paraguay) and honey (Nicaragua) the Cola Bears are just making their appearance in Germany and will be released in Switzerland in March. The price for a 75-gram bag will be approximately €1.39. The cola bears contain no caffeine and unlike many competitors’ products the samples tested at the show did not have the annoying habit of sticking to the teeth when eaten. The company does not use any cola nut; instead, the cola taste is derived from natural spices including cinnamon and ginger as well as several other “secret” combinations. Given this, it was remarkable how much it tasted like real cola.
For people who enjoy the taste of bananas there are two snack food products of interest from Daabon. Both products were launched under the La Barrita brand at the 2003 ANUGA. The first product combines an entire Columbian Cavendish banana (21 grams) with nougat, wafers and Calabot chocolate and is called Jabbana, the Banana Chocolate Bar. The banana can be overpowering unless you enjoy bananas. However, the entire texture of the bar was great and easy to chew. In addition, the chocolate covering was thick and provides a great ‘fix’ for all chocolate lovers. The second bar, to increase in size from 30 grams to 35 grams in May 2005, is called the Banergy Banana Bar. This bar is also going through an ingredient modification as the glucose syrup is scheduled to be replaced by a yet undetermined substitute in May 2005. This bar contains oats, wheat flakes and corn flakes, resembling the more traditional energy bars available on the market. Unlike many other energy bars, the banana keeps the bar from becoming too dry and provides a unique taste.
Although the bananas in both bars are grown and dehydrated in Columbia, the bars themselves are made in Germany. Both products are available through very limited channels, in Germany and Switzerland and are priced at the upper retail price level.
In October 2004, the Spanish company Tartaros Gonzalo Castello developed a new and healthier sodium-free salt substitute called BonSalt. The 2005 BioFach was their first time at the show and they were here to launch the product. Unlike many of the other salt substitutes, BonSalt has no metallic after taste, an important factor when trying to enjoy the flavour of your favourite meal.
Another interesting characteristic and one of the properties giving BonSalt its intense “saltiness” is its unique production process. The standardised process ensures all the Potassium Chloride particles, imported from the United States, are uniform in both size and shape. BonSalt is available in three flavours, the natural taste as well as both a garlic flavour and an onion flavour. The company is planning to enter the United States market later in 2005 after recently introducing BonSalt in France and Italy.
Salomon Hitburger may not have won any awards at this year’s BioFach but that did not dampen its enthusiasm and the crowds of visitors surrounding the booth. The sampling of its Bio Chik’n Wings and its new product, Bio Chik’n Nuggets, generated the appeal and draw.
The Chik’n Nuggets, introduced to the market eight months ago, are bite size pieces of whole breast meat surrounded in a breaded coating. The product is similar to those offered by companies like McDonalds, which raises an interesting question; Why is McDonalds not offering any organic products? Both of the products being sampled were tasty and could be used as finger food or appetisers at parties or dinners.
For the morning cereal lover, organic cereals, other than the standard muesli mix, are becoming more popular and fashionable. By providing varied and new exciting choices, cereals are introducing new consumers to the world of organics and serving as a gateway to organic growth. Keeping up with this trend, Barnhouse Life was at BioFach promoting its newest cereals under the Mr. Reen label. These included Krunchy Pur – an organic rolled oat; Poppies – an organic puffed oat that is wheat free; and Cornflakes & Co. – a cereal containing cornflakes and almonds.
A new product launched at the show and sure to capture the imagination and dollars of the consumer was BZ Bio Zentrale’s new range of muesli products under the Bio Gut & Gerne name. These products, created for and with the guidance of the legendary Formula 1 racer and sports figure Michael Schumacher, have an interesting beginning.
Products for champions
Schumacher has always been concerned about fitness, wellness, and overall health, important factors in his outstanding career as a Formula One driver. This has included interest in organic foods as well as a well balanced diet leading to the creation of several food “formulas” he enjoys eating. However, it was still a surprise to Christopher Chinque, Schumacher’s long time Tai Chi instructor, when Schumacher asked him to assist with finding a company or companies interested in taking those formulas and ideas and produce a line of organic food products. Chinque is now responsible for the International Export Division of the Michael Schumacher products, branded as “Products for Champions”.
The initial products, classified into two separate categories aimed at adults and children, were introduced at the BioFach Show.
The products for children, marketed as “Fit for Kids” and in yellow packaging with Schumacher’s picture on the front, include a muesli cereal aimed at children between the ages of seven and 18 years and snack bars packaged either singly or in a package of three. The mixture of the various fruits, such as strawberries, bananas and apples ensures the flavour is refreshing, tasty and visually appealing. These should be a hit with children of all ages and provide a healthy alternative to breakfast and snack times.
The adult range of similar products, although the formulation is different and they come in blue packaging, are positioned as “my power” products. The adult versions do not contain the additional magnesium and calcium need in child growth and included in the kid’s products. Again, only organic products are used and there are no artificial flavours, process sugar or sulphur treated fruits used in the production of the products. The product is formulated to deliver additional energy and fitness while maintaining a healthier lifestyle and diet.
The products are being launched in tandem with several of the 2005 Formula One races so keep checking your local grocery stores as the races come to a country near you.
Forthcoming events from the food trade calendar
As in previous years BioFach kicks-off the busy organic and conventional food trade show schedule each year, a schedule covering the world from Asia to Latin America. Other shows coming up include the ‘All Things Organic’ trade show, on 1-3 May, which is now established in Chicago at McCormick Place. Building on its popularity and growth this show is becoming “the” organic trade show in the United States. For information, click here.
From 18 to 22 May is ThaiFex – World of Food Asia 2005. Billed as “your Gateway to Asia” this show covers the full range of conventional and organic products, although the focus is on conventional products. For more information, click here.
The 17th International Exhibition of Natural Products, SANA, will be held in Bologna, Italy from 8 to 11 September. This show focuses on nutrition, health and the environment and is the leading organic show in Italy.
Meanwhile, from June 28 to 30, 2005 Singapore hosts the previously cancelled October 2004 ‘Natural Products Organic Asia’, which has become a biannual event. Fore more info, click here.
October will see the food industry descend upon Cologne Germany as the biannual ANUGA Trade Show takes place on 8-12 October.
The organic season ends with ‘Natural Products Expo Asia’, in Hong Kong, from 30 November to 2 December. This show features supplements, vitamins, natural and organic foods, natural personal care products, supply-related goods and services, and herbal products. More information is available here.
Finally, BioFach returns to Rio de Janeiro with new dates, from 16 to 18 November, taking it out of the busy September dates from last year and staying away from the October dates of ANUGA. For information, click here.
In closing, BioFach recaptured its intensity this year and again lived up to its reputation as the best and largest organic show in Europe and the world. The increased pace of new value-added organic products and the continued entry of conventional food players remains encouraging. This should result in continued growth as new consumers try organic products for the first time or expand their current organic purchases. The new dates for BioFach 2006 move back to early dates of 16 to 19 February.