The Organic Advantage

INDUSTRY NEWS:Fastest growing food sector arrives in Queenslands capital; Facts and figures for an organic future in the US

World’s fastest growing food sector arrives fresh in Brisbane –

“Everything you wanted to know but were too afraid to ask.” The Organic Roadshow answers all.

Most reliable sources show that the organic industry is continuing to experience a long and extensive growth spurt. Australian organic is growing at an average rate of approximately 20% per annum, holding tight to international trends that rate organic as the world’s fastest growing food and beverage category (organic sales are increasing by over $5 billion a year internationally with little signs of slowing).

In Brisbane, industry stakeholders report growth in consumer attendance at expanding organic fresh farmers markets; as well as in retail outlets stocking and selling organic produce.

For those seeking information on the industry closer to home, the Brisbane Organic Roadshow provides an opportunity to discuss, network and observe all things organic.

Participants will view trade displays and learn from the experience of long-term industry members as well as outsourced experts.

Notable speakers include Edward C. McGawley (Nematologist / Professor, Louisiana State University) on Nematodes (roundworms) - friend or foe

Dr Maarten Stapper (former CSIRO principle research scientist, soil health and organic farm systems researcher) will address soil health and organic farming.

Amanda Blennerhassett (Brand Manager, Abundant Earth Natural Foods) and Colman Ridge (Event Director, Brisbane’s Greenfest) will discuss green marketing, branding and the best means of organic message delivery.

The event will be hosted by Brisbane-based Biological Farmers of Australia in conjunction with organic grain milling company Z Mills.

Andy Monk, BFA Director, says now is the perfect time for new growers, processors and others to learn about the benefits of an important industry.

“The conversion to organics is now less of a “leap of faith” with international and domestic trends showing that organic growth is far from over. There are now many years of prior industry experience behind the sector for new members to learn from”.

He says this is not exclusive to the farm sector, but has extended more recently to value-added products manufactured traditionally by non-organic commercial enterprises who are now seeking to supplement established products with organic lines.

“These include well-known companies and brands such as Fonterra, Sanitarium, Coles, Heinz and Sanger’s Meat Australia” says Dr Monk.

However fresh produce remains the strong segment of industry and is the first point of contact for most consumers with organic food.

Learn more at the BFA/Z-MILLS organic trade roadshow
Friday 11th July 8:30am – 3:30pm
Where? Central Bardon Conference Venue 390 Simpsons Rd, Bardon (Brisbane)
For more information or to book your place contact BFA on (07) 3350 5716
Media inquiries and image opportunities are available.

Facts and figures for an organic future in the US
(original articlePhil Lempert: O Research Week 2 June 08)

Will organics keep vibrant in a challenging economy?

Are foods and beverages with organic claims (and higher prices) immune to the deepening economic plague of 2008? Nobody knows for sure—though recent surveys show consumers are less confident and expect to shop thriftier to nourish their families, which could prompt more purchases of conventional consumables at the expense of organics.

Yet the counter-trend to eat healthfully, even if it costs more, remains strong. Nielsen LabelTrends data show that even as the economy took a downturn in 2007, the sales growth of organic segments across the selling floor remained as lusty as ever. Total sales of UPC-coded organic foods and non-alcoholic beverages surged by 25.0% to $4.38 billion in U.S. food, drug and mass merchandiser stores (excluding Wal-Mart) in the 52 weeks ended April 19, 2008.

By comparison, sales of non-organic counterparts were up 4.4%—and much of this growth was probably due to food inflation rather than increased demand.

Organics sales momentum has been steaming for years now—and it seems a difficult trend to derail with wellness, food safety and environmental concerns also on people's minds. In the three-year run-up to the latest 52 weeks, the sales growth rate of UPC-coded organics trounced that of non-organics by a 19.5% to 2% comparison in 2005, by 26.9% to 2.3% in 2006, and by 27.9% to 2.1% in 2007.

Unit sales comparisons showed similar stark performance gaps, with one eye-raising distinction: unit sales of non-organic consumables actually showed successive declines in each of the past four years, while UPC-coded organics posted healthy double-digit gains.

Latest 52-week figures reflect continued shopper enthusiasm for prepackaged UPC-coded organic items in key center-store and perimeter departments. For example:
• In dry grocery, the rate of dollar sales growth in organics was 10x greater than non-organics, by a 28.8% to 2.8% comparison; that lifted sales in this segment to $1.75 billion and a 1.2% share of department volume.
• In dairy, the rate of dollar sales growth in organics was nearly 2x as high as non-organics, by a 19.7% to 11.0% comparison; with that, segment sales rose to $1.40 billion and a 3.4% share of department volume.
• In fresh produce, the rate of dollar sales growth in organics more than tripled that of non-organics, by a 26.6% to 6.9% comparison; segment sales rose to $817.0 million and a 6.1% share of department volume.

And among smaller organics sales contributors:
Frozen foods. Dollar sales grew in organics by 23.7% and in non-organics by 2.6%, an 8x difference; segment sales rose to $321.4 million and 1.1% of department volume.
Packaged meats. Dollar sales grew in organics by 26.6% and in non-organics by 1.8%, a near 15x difference; segment sales rose to $33.8 million and 0.3% of department volume.
Fresh meat. Dollar sales grew in organics by 37.2% and in non-organics by 12.1%, a 3x difference; segment sales rose to $29.3 million and 1.9% of department volume.? Deli. Dollar sales grew in organics by 27.7% and in non-organics by 7.4%, a greater than 3x difference; segment sales rose to $27.0 million and 0.5% of department sales.

AGRIBUSINESS:Forty years of Four Leaf Milling

Over 40 years, what began as a passionate family hobby became a promising market opportunity for clean, fresh and organic food for Gavin and Rosemary Dunn, proprietors of Four Leaf Milling organic grain production.

Four Leaf Milling this month celebrates its national presence as one of Australia’s biggest distributors of organic products including spelt and rye flours, Egyptian gold flour, rolled oats & bran as well as chickpeas, muesli and a range of baby food.

Officially established in 1968, Gavin and Rosemary attribute their long lived success to the quality of their product lines, their knowledge of organic farming practices and their ability to follow their passions in the absence of industry norms.

“For us it was important to follow what we felt at the time, not being swayed by the norm, we never doubted ourselves”, said Rosemary.

The 100% family owned and run business has never once used herbicides, pesticides, fungicides or fumigants on any of their South Australian Tarlee properties.

“We just couldn’t see the benefits for yield, health or economical gain.”

In the earlier days before the business was established, Gavin’s natural interest in agriculture, engineering and milling, got him experimenting with artificial phosphate which he soon discovered had no agricultural advantage for his soil or ultimately for his grain varieties.

From here, Four Leaf Milling turned into what it is today simply via word of mouth.

Rosemary says product demand began when the neighbours starting displaying an increasing interest in the flour produced and when school kids preferred the Dunn kid’s organic wholemeal sandwiches over their own white bread sandwiches.

“It wasn’t until the garage was full of gains that we realised we needed to either get serious or give it away” Rosemary explained.

She says the properties strong soil type and relatively good rainfall has helped them endure Australia’s continual drought conditions. However, continual pressures to supply quality grain as well as the lack of organic Australian grown rice available due to the drought are just some of the challenges the business has faced and will continue to face into the future.

As an industry leader in organic milling, Rosemary and Gavin stress to other current and potential growers, the importance of practicing slowly, to build their knowledge and to know the specifics of their industry inside out.

To celebrate its 40th year in the organic industry, Four Leaf has designed a special commemorative tin filled with 800 grams of their most popular line, original rolled oats. Five-thousand tins will be distributed at all their regular outlets, which include Health Food Shop and independent grocers such as selected Foodland and IGA outlets.

ENVIRONMENT: Organic systems provide fertile grounds for environmental food-lovers

The benefits of organic food production were highlighted on last weeks World Desertification day (Tuesday the 17th June).

BFA Soil Scientist Owen Gwilliam says problems associated with desertification, over-cultivation and soil degradation are less likely to grow under organic systems, and give eco-aware shoppers several new reasons to give organic more ticks on their sustainable lists.

“Under organic management exhausted soils are replenished into a fertile ‘living soil’ through the accumulation of organic matter and increases in soil biology which may previously have been depleted by conventional farming methods. Erosion is countered through natural land protection techniques including planting (tree based) shelter belts, and maintaining land vegetative cover”, he says.

Soil erosion is a major threat to sustained agriculture capacity. Nearly one-third of the world’s arable land has been lost to erosion at a continuing rate of more than 10 million hectares per year.

Several certified organic and bio-dynamic farmers in Australia have taken internationally acclaimed steps in decreasing the damaging effects of erosion and other land degradation outcomes, primarily through effective management of water reserves.

Ron Watkins, certified organic grower from Payneham Vale in Western Australia has been recognised twice by the United Nations for his role in best practise environmental management.

He says that water management in Australia is connected to everything from soil salinity levels to washed away topsoil. “Land degradation is not just one issue – it’s part of an interrelated, interdependent environmental system with water management at its core”.

Mr. Watkins says most effective use of water occurs where it falls. Under an organic system he has focused on enhancing natural water drainage and storage systems, using wildlife corridors and tree belts for land shelter.

Surface water control and subsequent land condition has improved.

“We rarely have run-off events now, where we initially saw 10% of rain drained away taking top soil with it, further along the creek. We’ve also cut down water logging to 3% of prior levels, and have land suitable for high-diversity production. We grow everything from cattle to vegetables and olives”.

Tony Coote, certified organic and bio-dynamic farmer from Mulloon Creek Natural Farms in NSW agrees land re-hydration is dominant in the Australian desertification issue.

His property is pioneering the first national Landcare demonstration of Peter Andrews’ Natural Sequence Farming techniques. Centred on better management of water flows and riverbank reserves, the work is being monitored by an independent international hydrology reference panel.

“Australia has been farmed for the past century using European drainage systems that are un-suited to the Australian ecosystem. Using natural sequence farming (which adheres to organic principles) we have collected a chain of ponds of stored and flowing water which resembles the original natural flow of water in an Australian landscape”.

He says the methods have seen the farm retain water reserves in the middle of severe drought.

Ph: 07 3350 5716 (International +61 7 3350 5716)