Organic food - a German trend goes global
13 May 2006, BERLIN- Organic products are not just for eco-freaks nowadays. Supermarkets have discovered the trend too. Germany is a world leader in the organic food movement.
13 May 2006
BERLIN- Organic products are not just for eco-freaks nowadays. Supermarkets have discovered the trend too. Germany is a world leader in the organic food movement.
This time it is the other way round. The trend does not come from the United States, but is moving from Germany across the Atlantic. Germans are known for their environmental consciousness and the demand for healthy, untreated food - and increasingly have imitators throughout the world. Healthy food is not just a fad for "lentils fans."
This message is also reaching the fast-food nation, where a booming market for organic products is emerging on the German model. "In America the food market is seeing a never-ending organic trend," says Eike Wenzel, author of a Green Markets Study. "Even American schools, famous for their love of fast-food, are moving to organic snacks and bars."
The customer profile in Germany has also changed a lot over the years. While organic food was the exception for many 20 years ago, it has become commonplace now. "The classic organic food customer does not exist any more," a spokesman for the German Organic Food Council, Elmer Seck says. "Some just think it tastes better, some are more interested in questions of sustainability and the environment, and for others it is just a trend they are following." One large target group is young families, "People really pay attention to the food they give their children, especially when they are very young."
The cliche of the eco-freak in dungarees, living in the countryside and growing his own organic vegetables belongs to the past. Now it is people in big cities who are looking for healthy food to offset a stressful lifestyle. Clever organic farmers in Germany have discovered a gap in the market and deliver fresh produce straight to the home. They deliver a mixture of in-season fruit and vegetables in "organic boxes" to the front door of many busy people in big cities. Tanja, a young and busy editor from Munich, is enthusiastic about the service. "You can just tick the things that you like and don't like eating. Since the order also depends on what's in season, the organic box is always a little surprise."
The boxes arrive once a week at people's houses. "My boyfriend and I save a lot of time and still get lovely and healthy food," says Tanja. The suppliers are following in the footsteps of potato farmers in the countryside who have been selling door-to-door for decades.
But what is organic exactly? "Organic farming is a form of agriculture that is close to nature," says Seck. "Working on organic principles means, soil, plants and animals are integrated into a natural cycle." That makes organic food more environmentally friendly than normal agriculture.
Since September 2001 food produced in Germany according to organic principles is eligible for the state-certified organic food mark. The small six-cornered sign with the word "Bio" on it is meant to create clarity, uniformity and orientation. Before the mark is awarded, the products have to pass strict requirements. Only growers and producers who fulfil the conditions of the organic food law and who subject themselves to the control procedures can sell their goods as organic or ecological. Protected concepts such as "organic" or "eco" can only be used on a product in which at least 95 per cent of the ingredients come from organic agriculture.
The market for these products is huge. In 2005 alone the turnover in Germany rose 15 per cent compared to the previous year to 4 billion euros, and it is still rising. "The largest increases in trade were seen in the cheap supermarkets and in organic supermarkets," according to the German Central Market and Price Agency (ZMP). Organic products are going from being the exception to being the rule on supermarket shelves. "In Germany, modern organic supermarkets are providing real competition to the sporadically equipped health food shops," says Wenzel. ZMP has also shown that large-scale trade is pushing out farm shops and weekly markets close to the producers.
The newest trend in the organic world does in fact come from the US and is called LOHAS (Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability). It refers to a new kind of customer for whom organic food is part of a lifestyle. "LOHAS could be a further motor for growth in the organic market," says Wenzel. Stars like Madonna and Leonardo di Caprio are among the more famous members of this new organic generation.
The image and value shift in the organic business has already happened, says Wenzel. It is as true in the US as it is in Germany - anyone who wants to impress his LOHAS friends has to know exactly what is trendy. The lifestyle eco types of today go for organic green tea or Ayurvedic milkshakes instead of lentils and muesli bars.
Contact: Organic Food Section of the German Federal Ministry of Agriculture (BLE), Tel. +49-(228)-68 45 32 80; Central Market and Price Agency (ZMP), Tel. +49-(228)-977 70, e-mail: email@example.com
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Subject: German news