Recent meat scandals at home have benefited the organic food industry in Germany, a country which can rightly claim to be Europe's largest consumer of bio-foods. But the trend is down to more than just health scares.
As International Green Week, the yearly food, agriculture and horticulture exhibition, opens in Berlin on Friday, the organic food industry can feel very pleased with itself. Recent findings show that more people are turning towards bio-products in Germany.
However, the organic seal of quality comes at a price; and usually it is a relatively high one compared to non-bio products. But it seems that money is increasingly less important in German consumers' quest for safe and healthy food.
Meat scandals have driven trend, not created it
Researchers have noted a definite change in German shopping habits of late, with ecologically sound products being the preferred target. Markus Rippin from Germany's Central Market and Price Monitoring Agency (ZMP) believes that, while recent factors have driven the trend, it's no flash in the pan.
"This trend is showing longevity, and is not just influenced by events like BSE," he told German broadcaster Tageschau. "Numerous investigations by different research institutes have shown this."
According to the ZMP's own research, consumers believe that organic products are fresher and taste better -- and price is a secondary condition. "The attitude towards more expensive foods has changed," Rippin said. "Consumers are more ready to spend more money on better food."
One recent study shows that 35 to 40 percent of the population buys bio-products at least once a month; possibly half of all Germans even more regularly. While the core demographic is educated shoppers with higher incomes, the trend is showing that more families with young children and pensioners are going ever more frequently to bio-stores.
Growth rate has been rising since 2000
The growth rate for organic products has been rising steadily since the turn of the century. In 2000, the German organic food industry was predicting a year-on-year growth of 10 percent. By 2004, products such as vegetable juice had seen a 55 percent rise. Other products experiencing similar growth include milk products and baby food.
Last year, an estimated 4 billion euros ($4.8 billion) were spent on organically produced food in Germany, an increase of 10 to 15 percent in revenue from 2004. The revenue produced from bio-food in Germany has been steadily on the rise for the past five years with 2001 seeing a massive 30 percent surge in profits.
More stores, more diversity extending trend's lifespan
Since then, more and more stores, especially supermarkets and drugstores, have been increasing their selections of bio-food to meet consumer demand. Purely organic supermarkets have ridden the wave and boomed in the first half of the decade.
Those who expected a certain amount of stagnation in the market have been waiting in vain. On the contrary, ever more organic products are featuring on the shelves of increasingly diverse businesses, from clothing to paint. The distribution network for bio-products has also improved, meaning the supply is equipped to meet demand.It appears that the organic success story has yet to reach its final page.