State of the organic industry part 2

US-based organic producers, manufacturers could get ahead of the competition through exports

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

US-based organic producers, manufacturers could get ahead of the competition through exports
The US may be the largest market for organic products, but it is also highly competitive, and manufacturers looking for a leg up might consider exporting their products as a way to build sales and even become category leaders, according to the Organic Trade Association.

“The global organic industry is growing just as quickly as the US industry, which is about €80 billion … for consumer sales last year. The US continues to be the largest market followed by Germany and then France,”​ Monique Marez, director of international trade at OTA said at Natural Products Expo West.

She added that the US accounts for about half the global market share of organic and, in general, sets the trends for organic around the world. As such, she said, buyers from around the world are looking to America for contracts with suppliers and manufacturers.

This is reflected in the US’ strong organic export business, for which “last year was the most successful year … on record,”​ with products going to 87 countries around the world, facilitated by five equivalency arrangements that accept the USDA organic seal, she said.

“The gateway [for organic] is produce,”​ with apples, spinach, strawberries and grapes at the top of the list for fresh organic goods that are exported, Marez said. But, she added, buyers abroad are interested in all types of “innovative”​ organic goods.

She encouraged manufacturers and suppliers of organic to explore this potential without being intimidated by the process of exporting.

“The US is a very competitive market, but if you consider some of these smaller foreign countries as a big city in the United States that you treat like a market rather than think, ‘This is a foreign country. This is complicated,’ then you can really diversify your portfolio and, in a lot of ways, you will be the brand leader of that particular product in that country because, basically, they don’t have innovation there yet,”​ she said.

Consider why customers want organic when positioning exports

Companies and producers that go for it, should consider why consumers abroad purchase organic, in order to best position their goods, Marez added.

“It is interesting to think about why organic is growing in different countries around the world and what they might be interested in. For example, the vegan movement in Germany is skyrocketing. I tis very, very much taking off and it is not only a diet issue but a sustainability and ecologically conscious issue,”​ Marez said.

“Customers in China and Taiwan are returning to organic for trust reasons. They really believe the seal means something, and represents a higher quality product that they can trust with government backing, whereas folks in Korea, for example, are really driving towards that LOHAS lifestyle movement, and they are trying to incorporate that more into everything they do, including diet,”​ she added.

Given the variety of reasons why people around the world choose organic, Marez said, exporters and customers need to be receptive not to just the American way, but the many ways out there.  

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