Organic Monitor hosted the annual Sustainable Foods Summit Europe in Amsterdam in June. Given HQO’s global presence, our CEO, Raju Boligala, always attends. He not only gathers the latest insights on the issues that are top-of-mind in Europe, but he is often asked to speak or moderate a panel. Raju always enjoys this important dialogue with our global ‘neighbors’ and came back with the following takeaways. But first, a top-line look at the growth the global organic and Fair Trade industry are achieving. (Source: Organic Monitor.)Global Organic Industry
Market Size (2011) $62.8 billion
Market Growth: 6% (YOY) & 172% since 2002 Global Fair Trade Industry Market Size (2011) $6.6 billion Market Growth 12$ (YOY) & 206% since 2006
1. Addressing the sustainability challenge while ensuring all stakeholders are taken care of.
As the global organic industry continues to grow, it experiences new challenges. One of the biggest messages this year was the importance of maintaining sustainability for all stakeholders: from the communities where the product is grown or manufactured to the generations to come who will be relying on the land or water resources we utilize.
2. Sustainable foods in urban cities
We have several challenges caused by our current food and agriculture industry according to the presentations by Food Cycle, a charity using unwanted food (potential food waste) and volunteers to provide delicious meals for those in need, and Sustainable Food Cities, a non-profit working to create food secure cities with the collaboration of health, food, government, academic, community and charitable organizations.
– An epidemic of diet-related diseases impacting our population meaning our children may become the first generation to live shorter lives than their parents.
– Food poverty affects more than ¼ of all people on the planet (15% in the U.S. according to the U.S. Poverty Report 2012).
– Food and farming is responsible for 25% of greenhouse gas emissions and is contributing to a decline in the quality or our soils, water and biodiversity.
– We throw away 50% of all the food we produce.
– Most farmers earn less than minimum wage and food workers consistently receive lower than average wages.
– We have an abundance of low-nutrient food made in an unsustainable model
– Food is a powerful vessel to not only enrich the environment and economy but improve the health and vitality of the community. By improving the entire system – from the soil to the supper plate – we can make monumental change.
3. Management of sustainable products in retailing
The Delhaize Group spoke about the importance of improving sustainability throughout the supply chain as it relates to retail products. Some of the key points were:
– Developing more intimate relationships with producers
– Bringing consumers closer to farmers
– Creating closer relationships with community
– Reducing food waste
– Partnering with environmental organizations to develop sustainable sourcing programs. (They partnered with the World Wildlife Fund to improve their seafood sourcing.)
– A major way to accomplish all of these tasks is through training: producers/supply chain, sales and marketing, buyers and consumers.
The Raisio Group spoke about the new challenges and opportunities in measuring water usage. They brought the first consumer product with a water footprint seal to market (click on the image to learn more) and have learned a lot in the process. Some of their main points were:
– Quite frankly, consumers aren’t really thinking about the impact their consumption has on water resources.
– It’s extremely difficult to measure a product’s total water impact. For example, to measure water impact fairly, you can’t just measure water consumption but must also take into account the impact grey water has on the environment.
5. Proliferation of eco labels
Organic Monitor has presented on a very important topic eco-confusion at both the American and European Sustainable Summits.
6. Sustainable commodities
7. Ancient grains and natural sweeteners
8. Marketing claims and mislabels
9. Social media and digital marketing – Well-respected speakers like the ow
10. Consumer insights on attitudes towards sustainable foods – 2/3 of consumers are consider the “middle green” – meaning they need to be educated and influenced to purchase sustainable products. It was encouraged that sustainable food companies focus on marketing to this demographic, not the “dark green” consumer, who already searches out sustainable products.
It’s definitely an exciting time for the food and organic industry.