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!