The Scandinavian organic market, especially in Denmark, Norway and Sweden continues to expand with retailers and industry associations reporting strong growth figures in grocery and fruit and vegetables. Despite Danes becoming more price-conscious during the financial crisis, with sales of basic organic products such as milk, potatoes and carrots falling by 10-20%, sales of Danish organic foods domestically increased by 0.5% in 2012, according to Statistics Denmark.

However, new research points out that the sales of organics among Danish canteens, restaurants and institutions have doubled within the last three years, while exports are booming.

Organic Denmark was well represented in Hall 1 at BioFach 2013 held in Germany, and a major topic in Hall 1 at several pavilions was weak organic standards in some EU countries that has the potential to impact on consumer trust in organics.

Klaus Bentzen, export manager of Organic Denmark’s view was that the horse meat substitution scandal may benefit certified organics, while there are issues with EU organic regulations where organic products are not 100% certified organic and rules developed in the 1970s and 1980s need to be updated.

“I believe fresh products, including organic produce, meat, dairy, cheese, and groceries, should meet 100% certified organic ingredients standards as the only level to maintain consumer trust,” he said. “Only one certifier is allowed to certify organics in Denmark that has helped maintain very strong standards, unlike in some European countries,” Mr Bentzen said.

The outlook for Danish organics is very solid. “Demand from organic customers is growing more rapidly than some companies can supply and French and German consumers are demanding higher quality organic products,” he said. “The growth trend in both countries continues to rise and it’s an opportunity for Denmark, which has been able to open up the French market for its products, while Germany is our strongest market.”

The numbers of exporting companies over the last five years increased by more than 60%. “Exports sales were up 21% in 2012 and we have doubled exports four times in the last six years,” Mr Bentzen said. “We’re aiming for 15% domestic organic consumption by 2020 and consumers are looking for more convenience products in organics and more complex products.”

The sales of organics among catering centres in Denmark has reached almost EUR 134 million. The research comes from the latest reports of the 15 largest food service companies in Denmark, Organic Denmark, an organisation for organic farmers, businesses and consumers in Denmark and Økosalg og Oplysning, an association of Danish organic producers with subsidy by the EU and the Danish Ministry of Agriculture.

Research also indicates that organics are especially popular among canteens and public institutions. Organic sales among catering centres are split up as follows (in per cent): 32% canteens; 33% public institutions; 16% restaurants and hotels; and 20% others. “The sales growth of organics in catering centres means an important step towards more sustainability in this sector. The increasing number of canteens, restaurants and institutions turning organic helps to strengthen the overall organic movement in Denmark and in effect the positive societal outcomes” says Rikke Thorøe Grønning, food service coordinator at Organic Denmark.