With a market share of over 12 percent, Denmark is a world leader in organic. No country in the world has a higher share. How is it that our neighboring country Denmark is so successful both in terms of its own market and in the export of organic? Paul Holmbeck, former Director of the Organic National Association / Organic Denmark, spoke about this and much more during the Ecological Future Day.
From niche to world leader
Over the past 15 years, organic has gone from being a small niche segment in Denmark of a few percent to a market share of over 12 percent. In certain product categories such as yoghurt, carrots and oatmeal, the proportion is organically over 40 percent and for eggs and milk the proportion is over 30 percent. The success is partly due to long-term political initiatives and partly to a strong political consensus on the added value of organic farming, says Paul Holmbeck, who has worked for the National Organic Association for over 25 years.
Strong growth of organic during the corona crisis
While the growth rate for organic food in Sweden appears to be slowing down, it is growing strongly in Denmark. When the corona crisis started in the spring of 2020, sales in the organic range in Denmark increased twice as much as the food sector as a whole. Some categories with particularly high growth rates were flour (48%), ready meals (36%) and fruit (35%), according to Paul Holmbeck.
Long-term political initiatives and close cooperation with the food industry
Similar to national sales of organic food and beverages, exports of organic food from Denmark have also increased sharply. Likewise the consumption of organic in the public sector. This strong development has been made possible by long-term political initiatives and a close collaboration with the National Organic Association, which over the past decade has built collaborations, developed products and campaigned together with players in the food industry.
Paul told about how the National Organic Association has helped Danish retailers to strategically develop their range of organic to get the consumer to go from buying organic basic goods to also shopping organic in categories where price sensitivity is greater. Another important component in the collaboration with the retailers was to improve the exposure and store communication around the organic products.
In addition to collaborations with the grocery trade, Økologisk Landsforening has promoted product development of organic food and drink, arranged events and created broad consumer campaigns to raise the added value of organic.
Strong political consensus in Denmark
A key factor behind Denmark's growing organic food market has been strong political consensus. As many as 9 out of 10 parties in parliament are behind the long-term initiatives and action plans for organic. The broad support can be explained by the fact that politicians to a large extent see that organic both delivers on several aspects of sustainability and contributes to increased profitability in agriculture. In this way, ecology has become a tool for promoting goals in other policy areas and creating growth, says Paul Holmbeck.
What can Sweden learn from Denmark?
What can Sweden and other countries learn from Denmark's journey? Paul Holmbeck landed in four important insights:
- Develop and build the capacity of non-profit organizations that work with the organic sector
- Create close collaborations with grocery stores and stores
- Engage all political parties in organic
- Communicate "why" - how organically delivers both in terms of sustainability and profitability
Brief facts about Økologisk Landsforening / Organic Denmark
The National Organic Association was founded in 2002 when eight organizations in the organic sector merged. The association represents food companies, farmers, food entrepreneurs and consumers and currently has 54 employees. The Organic National Association's areas of activity are market development, dialogue & impact, communication and the development of sustainable organic farming methods.
Read more about Paul Holmbeck here and follow his blog at www.paulholmbeck.com