The great and good of the world’s organic sector gathered in Germany last week to showcase their companies, launch new products and discuss future trends in this exciting area of the food industry. Footsore but happy, our organics man Bruce Hoggard reports back from BioFach 2004.

The Nürnberg Messe once again opened its doors to more than 30,000 visitors, with 34% of the people being international attendees, as it hosted the annual BioFach organic trade show. Held from 19-22 February 2004, in Nürnberg, Germany, this renowned international organic show ran for four days. Building on last year’s success, many of the companies hosted Friday night parties during the now famous ‘Long Organic Night’. Two of the more notable parties were Rapunzel’s Turkish Evening and Davert Mühle’s stand party.

Celebrating its 15th year, the show drew 1,882 exhibitors from 67 countries, displaying their tremendous variety of organic products throughout eight of the Messe’s numerous exhibition halls. The show’s pattern of growth ended this year, as the number of exhibitors decreased by 63 from the 1,945 exhibitors who displayed in 2003, with exhibitors booking 30,732 m² of space compared to 31,574 m². However, even with this slight drop in numbers, the 2004 event was very far from being a failure as the show maintained its dynamic nature and premiere showcase spot in the organic industry.

This year there were 1,263 international exhibitors, roughly 67% of the show’s exhibitors. The largest country representation came from Italy with 278 exhibitors, then Spain with 189, and third, France with 95 exhibitors. The ‘Country of the Year’, the Netherlands, which enjoys an excellent reputation as a successful organic trading nation, had 73 exhibitors and a prominent location in Hall 1. There were several new additions this year. Poland had its first pavilion, while Jamaica, with fine coffees and coconut oil, Norway, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Senegal and Serbia/Montenegro with products such as wild mushrooms or delicatessen, were also represented.

The show’s patron, IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements), once again had a strong presence. Located in Bonn, IFOAM’s mission is ‘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’. An important date to mark in your calendar will be the 15th IFOAM Organic World Congress to be held in Adelaide, Australia, from 20 to 23 September, 2005. With the theme ‘Shaping Sustainable Systems’, the Congress will highlight the importance of the organic industry’s role in ensuring long term sustainability of agro-ecosystems.

Fact and figures

In conjunction with the trade show, the BioFach Congress offered more than 100 seminars and presentations of interest to the organic industry. The seminars provided current statistical data as well as information on the various regulations and market dynamics from countries around the world.

According to the latest figures for 2004 there are now 24 million hectares under organic certification, more than triple that in 2000. In terms of individual countries, Australia still leads with ten million hectares, followed by Argentina at three million and Italy with more than one million. Finishing off the top ten countries, in order of millions of hectares, are the United States (.95), Brazil (.842), Uruguay (.76), United Kingdom (.76), Germany (.697), Spain (.665) and finally France (.509).

From the percentage view point of organic farmland in comparison to a country’s total agricultural area, Liechtenstein leads with 26.4%. It is then followed by Austria (11.6%), Switzerland (10%), Italy (8%), Finland (7%), Denmark (6.65%), Sweden (6.09%), Czech Republic (5.09%), Germany (4.1%) and rounding off the top ten organic leaders is Uruguay at 4%.

In a comparison of the organic movement and involvement by continent, the results confirm Australia and Europe’s leading role in the organic movement. Africa has 71,000 farms cultivating a combined 320,000 hectares, while Asia has 61,000 farms with a total of 880,000 hectares. Meanwhile Australia with 2000 organic farms has a leading 10 million hectares, and Europe, as a whole, has 5.7 million hectares farmed by 174,257 farms. The EU’s 15 countries, as of 2004, have 4.8 million hectares and 140,000 farms. Latin and Central America reported 5.8 million hectares and 143,000 farms while North America in comparison has a surprisingly low figure of 1.5 million hectares and only 105,000 farms, placing it at a marked disadvantage to its neighbours to the south.

From the consumer stand point of purchasing organic products, the United States is now considered the largest market for organic foods and beverages in the world, as published by Organic Monitor. The US market has been growing at 20% a year since 1990. The forecast for 2005 is for the US to hit organic sales of US$20bn and Canada to rise to US$2.3m.

The total European organic food and beverage market is worth more than US$14bn, with Germany remaining the largest single market at about US$4bn. Denmark however, at €71.2 (US$89.7) per capita, has the leading average annual expenditure on organic food and beverage sales in Europe. Denmark is followed by Sweden (€42.6), Austria (€41.5), Germany (€37.3) and the United Kingdom (€26.1).

Product information

Each year BioFach displays, in Hall 6, an array of 235 new and innovative products in five categories. From this selection a panel of esteemed judges chose the annual BioFach ‘Product of the Year’. This year the winner was the Latte Macchiato Stick (chocolate stick) from Rapunzel Naturkost AG. This product has tremendous appeal to the young consumers who are leading the modern coffee trends as Latte Macchiato has outstripped cappuccino as a coffee speciality. It now belongs as much in an Italian bar as it does in an American coffee shop.

Another new, winning product recognised by the panel of judges, in this case taking full advantage of the United Nations having declared 2004 International Rice Year, was a mayonnaise. The egg-free mayonnaise, based on rice, is produced by the Italian company, Probios, and is truly an innovative and new use for rice. ‘Mayorice’ as it is referred to, has a low fat content, contains no egg, soya or milk, has a very light consistency and an exceptionally fine taste.

A new product taking full advantage of the popularity of Omega 3 comes from a French company, Huilerie Emile Noel SA. Its Omega 3 cocktail is a combination of several oils including rape, olive, flax and wheat germ. It can be used on salads or for cooking and has a taste similar to borage oil. The product was being presented at BioFach, and in fact to the world for the very first time to gauge the response of the potential buyers and the general public.

New hope in China

The show draws many new, first time companies each year. This year one of those companies was a Chinese company ‘Peace Village Organic Foods’ an organic seed and grain producer from Dalian. The company is less than one year old, but more impressive was the fact the founder and general manager, Chen Hong Fei (Jane Chen), is China’s youngest general manager dealing with and in the organic food industry. Its farms are located in the northwest part of Inner Mongolia, one of the most fertile and rich areas in the region, allowing it to grow, as Chen stated, ‘the best organic product in China’. The company is also the only one in China growing organic oats as well as organic trees used in crop rotation and as wind breaks. The company offers more than 15 organic grains and has a joint venture with the Wulanchabu League Food Management Department of Inner Mongolia. Joining Chen at the booth was Zhang GuoXin, the Party Committee secretary director.

Another new company with a range of new products and also less than one year old is ISIS. This German company started by Herbert Lulay has strong connections to Canada and offers an extensive array of organic herbs and spices ranging from basil to paprika to oregano. The spice bottles take advantage of a new lid design making their use easier and more convenient. The company also offers several Canadian products including wild rice, maple syrup, mushrooms and canned corn-on-the-cob.

Convenient and organic

One of the more popular and successful foods making the crossover from the conventional to organic side is pizza. This year Unsere Natur Pizza, produced by Wagner, was being promoted by the German company Ökofrost. The various flavours included Salami (with goat’s cheese), Margherita, Vegetarian and Cheese & Spinach. Compared to several of the other pizzas at the show, the Wagner pizza is machine made making it more uniform and thicker in the crust.

Ökofrost was also promoting a new, non-dairy frozen soya dessert called Tofutti. Available in two flavours, vanilla and chocolate, this alternative for lactose-intolerant dessert lovers offers the opportunity to enjoy ‘the ice cream experience’. The product is made by Triano Brands Ltd of the UK.

Labeij Food Products is a team of creative food professionals who enjoy creating and developing new food products. Frank Lagas was at the show to promote the company’s new product, Racletto. Having taken nine months to develop, this crisp fried breaded cheese product was officially launched in January 2004 and was Labeij’s first venture outside the conventional food industry and into the realm of organic food. The Racletto is easy to prepare in a frying pan or cooking-oil, or in an oven or microwave. It is offered in several flavours. The choices include: with tomatoes; with broccoli and cauliflower; with Italian spices; or finally just naturally. The product is an excellent substitute for meat at any meal or on a bun for lunch or a snack.

One of the more defining products at this year’s Ssow was being promoted and sampled by the Dutch company Udea. The brand name of the product is ‘die drei Ziegen’ which stands for ‘the three Goats’. This new ice-cream, launched in May of 2003, is made from goat’s milk and is suitable for lactose-intolerant diets. The real test of the product, however, came in the tasting. As many people will already know, goat’s cheese is very strong, discouraging many people from eating it or even getting close to it! However, when Udea first began to sample the ice-cream product to potential buyers in 2003 many did not believe it was made from goat’s milk because of its great taste and lack of any ‘smell’. My own research at the show confirmed this same suspicion as the product was smooth and had a great taste, unlike goat cheese. In fact it was as good as or even better than ordinary ice-cream. The company offers a 400ml container in the three standard flavours of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry and it is presently being sold in Belgium, France, Germany, Austria, the UK and Norway.

Even if you are into organic foods, there remains the urge to ‘snack’ on occasion. All is not lost as there were numerous products at the show fitting the description of snack food. One of these was the ‘Original BioChips Alströmer’, a potato chip produced in Sweden. Unlike other chips (potato crisps) Svenska Lantchips uses the entire potato with its skin and deep fries the slices in palm fat. This method results in the chip having 30% less fat than those baked in the conventional method of production. Svenska is the only producer in Europe to use this method and is also one of only two organic chip manufactures in Europe. An interesting tid-bit about the brand’s name is that Alströmer was the father of the potato in Sweden as he introduced it to Sweden some 150 years after it entered Germany.

The organic trade show calendar

Each year BioFach Nürnberg kicks off the busy organic trade show schedule, covering the world from Asia to Latin America. Because of the importance of the organic industry and the various shows promoting it, here is a listing of the shows for the remainder of the 2004.
Originally started as Natural Products, this year’s Full Moon Communication’s Organic Products Europe, incorporating Organex, and Natural Products Europe will be held 4-5 April, 2004 (Sunday and Monday) at the Grand Hall Olympia in London. The show offers more than 500 exhibitors, 60 speakers in four theatres providing a dedicated program of seminars, hundreds of new products, and the opportunity to network with the organic industry over the two days. More information on registration can be obtained here.

Meanwhile, the fourth annual ‘All Things Organic’ trade show moves from Austin to its new home in Chicago at McCormick Place. The new dates are 2-4 May, 2004. For further information or to register visit the organisation’s website.

Organic Products Expo-BioFach America, will be held in Washington, DC from October 15-17, 2004. With a draw of more than 20,000 visitors for its first time in 2003, this new organic initiative is expected once again to draw an enthusiastic crowd of industry and interested people. In conjunction with the trade show there will also be a full schedule of educational, award and tour events. For more information check the show’s website.

With the Asian organic market continuing to grow, the number of organic food shows or organic components of conventional food shows, is also increasing in that region. For companies interested in the organic market in Japan, Japan FOODEX, 9-12 March, in Tokyo, has added an active and expanded organic section. Meanwhile there is another date change to BioFach Japan as it moves to 21-23 September, 2004. More information on BioFach Japan can be sourced here.

Meanwhile, from 3-6 November, 2004, Singapore will once again host Natural Products Organic Asia which incorporates Natural Products Asia and Organic Products Asia. Only in its second year this show will be expanding on its success in 2003 featuring a wider range of natural, organic vegetarian and environmentally friendly products and services. To register click here.

The organic season ends with Natural Products Expo Asia in Hong Kong 1-3 December. This show will again feature supplements, vitamins, natural and organic foods, natural personal care products, supply-related goods and services and herbal products. More information can be found at the website.

And finally, BioFach, buoyed by its successful first BioFach conference in Rio de Janeiro 25-26 September last year, is planning to extend the event to the whole of South America and rename itself BioFach America Latina. It will remain in Rio de Janeiro and take place 8-10 September. For information or to register click here.

In closing, BioFach in Nürnberg once again lived up to its reputation as the best and largest organic show in Europe and the world. The pace of new organic products being introduced and the entry of larger conventional food players means the organic industry is here to stay. BioFach 2005 takes place 24-27 February. See you there!