In Italy, the sale of organic products is increasing, especially in discount stores and neighbourhood supermarkets, a sign that they are now mass consumer products. And there is a growing request for a more specialised supply that is not just “natural” but also tasty and original.
Where is the organic sector heading in Italy, and more generally worldwide? Figures tell a story of continuing success: according to a recent study by FIBL (Forschungsinstitut für biologischen Landbau, an organic agriculture research institute) and IFOAM – Organics International, organic agriculture involves 2.7 million growers who cultivate 57.8 million hectares in 178 Countries, with an estimated global value ofmore than 90 billion dollars. Worldwide, Australia alone accounts for almost half the surface area (27.2 million hectares) followed by Argentina (3 million) and China (2.3 million). In Europe, the highest level of organic cultivation takes place in Spain, with approximately 2 million hectares, but Italy comes fast on its heels with its 1.8 million hectares: this is a considerable result if we think that our country has a much smaller total surface area. In Italy organic land increased by 300 thousand hectares between 2015 and 2016 and now accounts for 14.5% of the total produce grown.
If we speak of consumption on the other hand, once again according to the FIBL-IFOAM study, the largest market in the world is the United States with 35.8 billion Euro, followed by Germany (8.6 billion Euro) and France (5.5 billion Euro). Other significant markets in Europe are the United Kingdom (2.6 billion Euro) and Italy (2.3 billion Euro, which is growing about 15% per year). However, the highest market share belongs to Denmark (9.8% of the total food market) while the highest expenditure per capita takes place in Switzerland, with 274 Euro, and the fastest-growing market is France (+22%).
If we take a look at consumption in our country, AssoBio has some interesting data that lead us to believe that quality in this sector is also growing. If on the one hand, the most significant growth rates can be found in discount stores (+31.7%) and small neighbourhood supermarkets (+23.5%), a sign that organic products are no longer “niche” products but are rapidly becoming “mass” products, on the other hand the number of references offered – +30% the average assortment of organic products in mass retailing - and the share of organic products in the total growth of food assortment, amounting to 23% is also growing: in other words out of 100 new products put on shop shelves, 23 are organic.
A clue about how producers are increasingly acknowledging the requests for diversification and personalisation of the offer that come every day from better informed, “specialised” consumers. Even for the more traditional products, like olive oil. “Alongside the Gran Cru Millenario made from the high-quality, centuries-old olive trees in Puglia, thanks to the Armonia range we can also offer an exclusive selection of aromatised, organic extra virgin olive oils, which combine tastes from Puglia with the best taste from around the world: ginger, turmeric, goji berries, chia, quinoa, green tea, lemon and chilli pepper”, says Antonio Raguso, the CEO of Frantoio Raguso in Gravina in Puglia. Biolivum, a certified organic extra virgin olive oil also comes from Puglia, 100% made in Italy from olives grown in Italy and cold pressed: “Our extra virgin olive oil is obtained solely from the milling of top quality olives, which are grown in Puglia. The olives are harvested using the best methods and times for protecting the wealth of aroma components”. This is a formula that is very popular in the German and Japanese markets, explains the Director of Primoljo, Fernando Primiceri.
Not just oil, but also olives and more, products where innovation is also applied in the presentation and packaging, as explained by Carlo Gaudiano who is the Sales Director at Bio Organica Italia: “We produce an innovative line of organic and biodynamic olives and vegetables (Demeter) that are fresh, packaged in convenient jars, that have been one of our most successful product lines in the last two years, especially on the German market. The particular aspect is that they have no protective liquid in the package: using a special technology called Food Sense, the products maintain their organoleptic, sensory properties in a modified atmosphere for 90 days”.
If for some people “naturalness” is almost a synonym of vegetable, in recent years the organic approach has also increasingly taken over the meat segment. “Our organic range, which is already well known for our vegetable products, now also boasts the uniqueness of meat and chicken products to complete the range. In fact, we are the only company on the national market that offers these two varieties of organic stock products, both in cube form and in instant granules form”, explains Sabrina Taddei from the Marketing Office at the Trentino company Bauer.
Besides, the Alps and surrounding German-speaking areas have always been at the forefront of healthy, natural products, as also stated by Peter Kirwel, Senior Sales Manager at the German company Topas: “Consumer habits are changing rapidly. When they choose an organic product, customers today expect to find food that is tasty and original: it is no longer enough just to be ‘natural’. If we move on to the vegan options, young European ‘flexitarians’ want products that offer the same satisfaction as meat, but without the meat. Our best sellers, in fact, are vegan Merguez sausages and a mixed vegan barbecue pack”.
For millennials, therefore, barbecue parties are still a thing: as long as they are organic and vegetarian.