With the North American organic products market worth over USD53 billion in 2017 (USA OTA and Canada OTA sales figures), growth in the global organic products market has continued as North America consolidates its pole position with organic food going "mainstream".

"Consumer demand for organic foods is strengthening. According to the OTA, 83 percent of American families now buy organic products; organic foods comprise over 5 percent of retail food sales in the US. Consumer awareness of organic production methods is also rising in other regions," Sustainable Foods Summits' organizer Ecovia Intelligence in a December release.

"The ‘mainstreaming’ of organic foods is making retailer private labels prominent. The leading brands of organic foods in North America are owned by supermarkets. Kroger recently announced that its Simple Truth brand of natural and organic foods surpassed USD2 billion sales this year."

"Health reasons are the major driver of organic food purchases. Consumer concerns about pesticides, genetically modified organisms, and growth hormones are the primary purchasing motives. In Brazil, 64 percent of consumers buy organic foods as they are considered healthier. The millennials are wielding greater influence, representing over half of organic food purchases in some countries," Ecovia said.

In Latin America, Brazilian supermarket chain Pão de Açúcar is the leading retailer of organic foods and actively markets organic foods under its Taeq private label.

French retail group Carrefour is planning to become the premier retailer for organic foods in the world. It is currently setting up supply chains for its international retail network to achieve its goal of USD6 billion sales from organic foods by 2022.

As will be shown at the North American edition of the Sustainable Foods Summit, multinationals are wielding greater influence in the organic food market. Acquisitions have been the ‘modus operandi’ of many large corporations. Almost all leading organic food brands in North America are now in their hands.

"As the organic food market has expanded, transaction fees have moved from millions to billions; Danone paid USD12.5 billion for Whitewave Foods last year, whilst Amazon bought Whole Foods Market for USD13.7 billion," Ecovia said.

"The acquisition trend has spread to other regions. Unilever acquired Mãe Terra and Pukka Herbs last year. Mãe Terra is one of the leading brands of organic foods in Brazil, whilst Pukka Herbs is a UK-based organic tea company. Jasmine, another pioneering organic food brand, was purchased by Otsuka Pharmaceutical."

Ecovia said that while the entry of large food companies (and online retailers) is facilitating distribution of organic foods, standards remain an impediment to global trade of organic products. Brazil is becoming isolated as an exporter (and importer) as the country has no equivalency agreements for its organic products, while the US has become an international exporter of organic foods, partly because it has entered a number of trade agreements.

A concern is the lack of harmonization between national standards, as well as a growing number of private standards.

A major development this year was the launch of the Regenerative Organic Certification scheme in the US. Developed by the Rodale Institute, the new certification adds social fairness, animal welfare and soil health to the existing USDA organic standard, while the Demeter standard is gaining traction in Europe and Australasia.

The ninth North American edition of this executive summit will be hosted at the Hilton San Francisco Financial District on 16-17th January. Look up: www.sustainablefoodssummit.com/northamerica/