Natural Products London

So Natural Products was two weeks ago in London. After the show it has been so busy that I have found no time to come back to the blog. As the pictures shows, also the show was busy and we had a lot of interesting discussions with clients. The most tangible result was that the Napapiiri Organics range of berry preserves will be available at Community Foods’ Cash&Carry; starting from the next price list in May. So it means there is a lot of work ahead to ensure they find their way to the shop shelves. At least reactions to tastings at NPE were very positive with the Sea Buckthorn preserve probably the best liked type. But there is a lot of communication to be done. What is cloudberry or sea buckthorn? How do you use the preserves? What are the benefits? All the berries in the Napapiiri range are arctic superberries that grow wild in Finland. All of them have great health benefits but people are of course not aware of them. For example wild bilberry from Finland contains 8 times more antocyanins and flavonoids than North American blueberry. This is the berry the Japanese pharmaceutical industry is buying for preparing eye-sight enhancing supplements. The Americans are making all the health claims but we have the real product! Also lingonberry – called also mountain cranberry – has much higher content of health benefitting substancies than North American cultivated cranberry. But all this needs to be communicated. A good source of information is the web site of Arctic Flavors.

An other new product we were presentig at NPE was Nordic Rape Seed Oil from Virgino. Virgino is a very high quality cold pressed oil that can be used for salad dressings as well as frying. The quality is now even better than it was earlier because Virgino has recently moved into new facilities and has new machinery for pressing the oil. What is special about the Virgino rape seed oil is that it is produced from turnip summer rape seed (Brassica rapa ssp oleifera) while most rape seed cultivars are Brassica napus cultivars. The English language makes no difference between the two species but let us call ours Nordic Rape Seed as it is hardly cultivated outside Finland anymore. The fatty acid composition of Nordic Rape Seed Oil is more favorable than in normal rape seed oil and by far more favorable than other major oils like olive oil or sunflower oil. It contains only 5% saturated fatty acids (the bad ones) and has Omega 3 and Omega 6 is perfect balance. But here again we have quite a task in communicating and differentiating. The goods news is that everyone at NPE who had the opportunity to taste Virgino was impressed. It should also be mentioned that all Finnish rape seed cultivars are 00-erusic acid cultivars (0% erisic acid) and GMO-free.

On our way to London

Next weekend (15th and 16th April) the Grand Hall Olympia in London will again host the Natural and Organics Products Europe show, which is the most important happening of its kind in the UK. Of course it is more “natural” (what ever that means) than organic but it is an important show for organic products. While it is far smaller than BioFach in Germany – only one hall compared to 9 in BioFach – it is a good show. Next weekend Organic Food Finland will be exhibiting there for the second time. Five companies from our group will be present: Helsinki Mills, Kiantama, Laihian Mallas, Maustaja and Virgino. Although not a separate company, also Napapiiri Organics will be presented.

In Finland most people would expect Germany to be our biggest export market for organic food. But in my experience Germany is more challenging than the UK. Almost as long as I have been involved in organic export – since 1997 – the UK has been the biggest export market for our products. This was (and is) true for the organic liquorice I developed together with Makulaku Confectionery and it has been true for Helsinki Mills until now. Why is this?

Since the organic boom in the late -90’s the UK has been highly dependent on imports for organic food – the worst year I believe 80% of organic food sold in the UK was imported. Now that is down to 50-60% but still a high figure in a market of 2,2 billion euro. This situation evolved because the market growth was so high that the domestic production could not meet the demand. And the UK was not yet subsidising organic farming in a similar manner as what happened in most other European countries. Another feature that seems to be especially strong in the UK is the constant discussion about food scares. You can hardly open a British newspaper without reading some article about food security problems of some kind. British comsumers are not that confident about British food. (By comparison, in Finland consumers are so confident about domestic Finnish food that it sometimes worries me.) Also British food culture is not as strong as in most continental European countries – it is acceptable to think that foreign food can be of higher quality than British food – and if it is organic, also safer and better for you. However the “Buy British” campaign must have affected this to some extent in favour of UK producers. In the end one factor could also be that I am personally pretty fluent in English which makes communication and following the market easier.

Now the UK organic market is booming again at a 30% growth rate even though there is no acute food scare. I presume what’s driving the market now is the topic of climate change becoming so important in mainstream media. Maybe the environmental motive to buy is getting more important now.

So what is our target at NPE? To introduce Finnish wild berries in the form of the Napapiiri range of sugar-free berry jams from Maustaja Ltd – and as dried or IQF berries and concentrates (bilberry, lingonberry, cranberry) from Kiantama Ltd. To introduce for the first time the organic malts and malt extracts from Laihian Mallas Ltd. And organic Nordic rape seed oil from Virgino. And some other products. Please visit us at stand 2331 and have a look!