The Organic Market in Europe

The organic market has been growing steadily in recent years. It has grown almost five-fold in 15 years, reaching $87.3 billion in 2015. It is a trend, but especially a change of lifestyle following an awareness. In the 10 last years, products from organic farming have become necessary for a large part of the world’s consumers. Organic agriculture is a set of practices in which the use of external inputs is minimized. Synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, synthetic preservatives, pharmaceutical, GM organics, sewage sludge and irradiation are all excluded. This growing market owes its success to the many organic producers, processors and distributors who develop with farms and companies engaged in organic farming. 

According to a TechSci Research report, the global organic food market will face a 15% increase during the 2015-2020 period. This growth of the organic market can be attributed to growing health concerns among consumers and increasing awareness regarding health benefits of organic products. Many polemics around pesticides, preservatives or additives have emerged in recent years, which influenced and encouraged consumers to turn to more natural products. Likewise, other factors driving organic food sale across the globe include increasing incomes levels, improving standard of living, and government initiatives aimed at encouraging widespread adoption of organic products.

The organic market is growing all over the world, especially in developed countries. Indeed, the mains organic markets are the USA (45%), the European Union (33%), China (6%) followed by Canada (3%) and Australia (2%). However, nearly half of the organic surfaces in the world are based in Australia (45%). In fifteen years, the number of organic farms was multiplied by 9.6 and the area cultivated in organic by 3.3.

More specifically, let's talk about the European organic market. In European Union, the consumption of organic products was estimated at $38 billion in 2016, according to Agence Bio. The biggest consumers of organic products are Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Italy, with a rate of 68% only to them 4. However, it is the Swiss, the Danes and the Swedes who fill most their baskets of organic products with a total spend per year of $337, $279, $240 respectively. 

Regarding organic farming areas: 70% of organic farms are located in 6 countries: Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Poland and Austria. The Northern countries, such as Austria, Sweden and Estonia are proportionately the greenest, with more than 15% of their agricultural land devoted to organic food, or in conversion to organic. 

Germany is the biggest organic market in Europe actually. The growth of this market has increased by a factor of 5 since 2000, which allowed it to reach $11.04 billion in 2016. Between 2015 and 2016, the sales of organic products in Germany increased by 9,9%. We can note that sales of these products were more important in supermarkets than in specialized stores, even if the online sales are growing. However, out of the 2,600 stores selling organic products in Germany in 2016, only 600 were supermarkets, compared to 2,000 specialized stores.

France is the second European organic market. The French organic market has been multiplied by more than seven since the beginning of the 21st century and reached nearly $8.33 billion in 2016. Compared to 2015, the organic market grew by 21% in one single year.

French people buy and consume mostly organic fruits and vegetables. This is the main category of organic products consumed in France. Come after dairy products eggs, oils and spices, drinks, meat, bread, coffee and tea, fish and food supplements.

Organic still has a way to go, it represents only 4.5% of the food market consumed by the French, but the government strongly encourages its consumption and production. The number of companies working in the organic sector increased by 16% in 2017 compared to 2016. As well, the French government wants to reach in 2022 15% of agricultural area growing organic products.

The 3rd biggest European organic market is the UK. After a huge growth from 2000 to 2008, the UK had to deal with a decline in the consumption of organic products for 3 years. The economic growth of this market has restarted in 2011 and the sales of organic products increased by 7.1%, reaching $2740 billion in 2016. This new growth brought with it the rise of supermarkets and internet sales, increasing by 6.1% and 10.5% respectively.

Sweden is not one of the 3 largest organic markets in Europe but is the most dynamic market. The growth of this market has always increased, but it has been extremely important since 2004. Indeed, the growth of the Swedish market has increased by 38% in 2014, 39% in 2015 and 18% in 2016, reaching the sum of 2.88 billion Swedish crowns. The difference in growth observed between 2015 and 2016 is due to a shortage of certain products as milk, cereals, eggs and meat. As in other European countries, it is in supermarkets that we observe the largest sale of organic products, compared to specialized stores. They represent respectively 55% and only 2% of the Swedish organic market.

The organic market in the world and more particularly in Europe has been increasing since the end of the 20th century. The increase in the consumption of organic products seems to be only a beginning of a general awareness. Indeed, the motivations to consume organic products have been boosted by public concerns over pollution, food safety, human and animal health, as well as by the value set on nature and the country-side. This market is also flourishing across other continents such as North America or Asia and remains a great prospect for the future.