Marking the beginning of September as Australian Organic Awareness Month, Angove Organic Wines has released The Future of Organic Report, which has addressed why Australian consumers are turning to more organic produce in amongst a turbulent 2020.
The report backs the findings from Australian Organic Limited, which revealed that from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, sales of certified organic products – food, beverages, alcohol, homecare and personal hygiene products – have increased by an astounding 50 per cent as consumers seek out health and safety for all aspects of their lives, during this unprecedented time.
The report touches on the challenges of 2020 – from bushfires and floods in Australia to the global pandemic – which have changed our way of life irrevocably. From uncertainty comes a need for more control, and in response, consumers increasingly value health and seek out brands they can trust.
“Due to the heightened focus on maintaining optimal health in the face of the pandemic, we have seen a continued increase in conversion and resulting growth in our Angove Organic wines, as seen across the organic industry, in sales at this time” said Sophie Angove, viticulturist and fifth-generation member at Angove Family Winemakers.
The report reveals organic certification marks now have strong influence over organic purchasing decisions. The demand for organic Australian produce was apparent at Angove Organic, with 35 per cent increase in sales compared to 2019. The brand attributes this growth to consumers switching to healthier wine.
The Future of Organic report outlines the growing trend for organic produce across the globe. Consumers, particularly millennials, are living more sustainably, and have been increasingly focused on consuming products with minimal intervention, only natural inputs and good for the planet. With organic having a total market value of over US$97 billion it seems consumers globally are demanding more organic not only from their vegetables, but also from their wine, and Australia is no different.
The galloping switch to certified organic has seen 20 per cent increase in sales of organic fruit and vegetables, around 24 per cent for organic beauty, and almost 16 per cent of regular wine drinkers aged 21-34 in Australia having bought a bottle of organic wine in the last six months. Made famous by resident beehives, micro-bats and Indian Runner Ducks, whose appetite for slugs and snails have meant zero pesticides required, Angove Organic has set the benchmark high for best in class organic wine.
“We have come full circle now as we focus on the wellbeing of both people and planet. 2020 marks the 14th anniversary of Angove Family Winemakers farming and making wine under organic certification with 100 per cent of our vineyards Certified Organic – a rigorously monitored farming type, which enables the brand to carry the highly sought after Australian Certified Organic Bud logo,” said Ms Angove.
The National Farmers’ Federation has called upon the government to address the Australian organic industry’s need for urgent domestic regulation as one of its key requests to “cut red tape from agricultural businesses”.
The NFF unveiled its strategy document Get Australia Growing at the National Press Club yesterday outlining 11 priorities for agricultural reform in order to get the economy back on track.
It was highlighted that Australia’s need for consistent regulation for organic farming was imperative given that Australia is the last developed nation in the world to have a collaborative approach to organic production.
The report outlines that the current inconsistent approach limits market access for Australian organic producers, affects consumer confidence and increases the economic burden on industry. It strongly recommends the government progress domestic regulation as part of the Australian farming sector’s goal to reach $100 billion in farm gate output by 2030.
Other key recommendations included simplifying the industrial relations system, create a strong future for agrifood and fibre manufacturing, and making drought freight exemptions permanent.
Niki Ford, CEO of Australian Organic Ltd, the nation’s peak body for the organic industry, said the NFF’s recommendation is a major step forward for the organic industry.
“Our push to mandate domestic regulation over the past 18 months has been supported by Minister Littleproud and the NFF, providing an open dialogue that for the first time in 27 years this issue can now be properly addressed,” said Ms Ford. “The National Standard for Organic and Bio-Dynamic Produce was originally written with the intention to be enforced domestically when it was announced back in 1992, but due to unknown reasons this never occurred.
“Having the support of the NFF is enormously important to progressing the discussion. Through our ongoing collaborations with government and key industry stakeholders, we are confident that we will reach an outcome that is beneficial to the Australian economy and the Australian Organic Industry.”
Ford said the lack of regulation around the word organic has been enormously limiting for industry. “It has allowed misleading organic products to enter the domestic market. Additionally, the current overseas certification process which forces organic exporters to pay separate fees to different countries is costing the organic industry enormously every year. If we could mandate domestic regulation, it would enable our industry to thrive exponentially and provide growth for Australian agriculture.”
The Australian Organic industry is currently worth $2.6 billion, growing year on year. In 2018 domestic sales grew 15 per cent vs the previous year whilst export tonnage was up 13 per cent over the same period. According to the Australian Organic Market Report 2019, 6 out of 10 shoppers purchased organic product in the past 12 months, 55 per cent of shoppers would choose an organic product with a certification mark in a like for like purchase, and 51 per cent recognise the Bud logo as the mark of Australian Certified Organic.
This included fruits, vegetables, soy-based products, dairy products, meat and fish.
The participants were then given an organic food score. If they chose organically produced foods in all 16 categories, they would get a maximum score of 32.
The health of each participant was assessed each year and monitored for a median period of 4.5 years.
When any cases of cancer occurred, details were independently confirmed with the individual’s hospital or treating physician.
The participants’ organic food scores ranged from 0.7 to 19.4. These were used to divide the group into equal quartiles.
The overall cancer risk was 25 per cent lower in those who had the highest organic food score.
Cancers showing the greatest correlation with decreased risk were breast cancer – especially in postmenopausal women, and lymphomas – especially non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
No correlation appeared with prostate or colorectal cancers, although the relatively short time frame would have made any change unlikely.
But, while there was a correlation between eating organic foods and lower rates of cancer, it doesn’t necessarily mean one caused the other.
People who choose organic foods are likely to be healthier, wealthier and better educated, all factors known to impact risk of cancer, the study explains.
Researchers note that this is the first study of its kind so the findings need to be confirmed in other studies before organic food can be proposed as a preventive strategy against cancer.
However, past research has found that higher intakes of fruit, vegetables and wholegrains – however they are grown – and lower intakes of processed and red meats can decrease the risk of cancer.
As previous studies with this group had shown people who choose organically grown products tend to have higher income, higher levels of education and healthier diets.
So the researchers adjusted for these factors.
They also made adjustments for other factors that could affect the outcome, such as age, sex, the month the participants were included in the program, marital status, physical activity, smoking status, alcohol intake, family history of cancer, body mass index, height, energy intake, and the intake of dietary fibre and also red and processed meat.
For women (who made up 78 per cent of the study group), they also adjusted for the number of children they had, oral contraception use, postmenopausal status and use of hormonal treatment for menopause.
In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified some pesticides as “probably carcinogenic to humans”.
This means there is limited evidence of a link between pesticide use and cancer in humans, but sufficient evidence of a link between pesticide use and cancer in experimental animal studies.
The organic industry came together this week to celebrate the launch of the Love Organic Symposium, in Canberra. With the Government about to close submissions this month on the review of the only protective organic legislation in Australia, industry leaders joined forces to determine a new representative that would take the industry forward.
In agreeance to form an Acting peak body was Anni Brownjohn (Ozganics), Marg Will (Organic Systems & Solutions Pty Ltd), Owen Gwilliam (Organic Advice), Rick McDougall (Australian Organic Director), Ben Copeman (CEO ACO), Jan Denham (NASAA Chair) and Don Murray (Nature’s Haven) to name a few in the group who will collaborate over the coming months to serve as the Acting peak body while a permanent structure is being finalised. Several options were presented by a number of consultants, government personnel and industry leaders, resulting in this body being formed.
The driving force behind continued growth in the industry is Australia’s largest and most recognised industry powerhouse for organics, Australian Organic Ltd (AOL). For some time now, AOL has been vocal in urging industry members and stakeholders to join in the journey of this organic unification.
Soon to be a stand-alone, member owned, not for profit industry services group, AOL will continue to support and protect its members, ensuring their members and stakeholders from the broader have the opportunity for their collective voices to be heard.
“The AOL group will receive advice and consultation from and with the acting peak body, and our members will have their own say in this before we make further moves later this year. In the meantime, AOL will complete the demerger endorsed by its members at the AGM last November, whilst establishing the new structures that will most efficiently and professionally represent the Australian organic industry,” said Dr. Andrew Monk, Chairman of Australian Organic.
Key guest speakers included David Cunningham (Assistant Secretary, Export Standards Department of Agriculture and Water Resources), Hon David Littleproud (MP Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources), Mrs Nola Marino (MP) and Hon Joel Fitzgibbon (MP), with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull attending the Love Organic Symposium BBQ later that evening.
A national survey conducted last year, revealed that organic food has a firm foothold in Aussie shopping baskets, with more than two out of three households purchasing organic products in the last year and this exciting growth trajectory is predicted to continue. Furthermore, the 2017 Australian Organic Market Report revealed Australia officially holds the largest amount of organically managed farmland in the world at 53 per cent – local demand coupled with increasing export opportunities will further support growth in this booming industry.
Is organic agriculture the solution to our global food system challenges? That’s been the premise and promise of the organic movement since its origins in the 1920s: farming that’s healthy, ecological, and socially just.
Many people – from consumers and farmers to scientists and international organisations – believe that organic agriculture can produce enough nutritious food to feed the world without destroying the environment, while being more resilient to climate change and improving the livelihoods of farmers.
For a paper published today in the journal Science Advances, we systematically and rigorously evaluated the performance of organic versus conventional agriculture on three key fronts – environmental impact, producer and consumer benefits. As much as possible, we based our review on previous quantitative synthesis of the scientific literature – so-called meta-analyses. We also examined whether those studies agree or disagree in their verdicts.
We discovered that organic farming does matter – just not in the way most people think.
Compared to a neighbouring conventional farm, an organic farm at first appears to be better for the environment. But that’s not the whole story. Here’s how it breaks down.
What’s good: Organic farms provide higher biodiversity, hosting more bees, birds and butterflies. They also have higher soil and water quality and emit fewer greenhouse gases.
What’s not-so-good: Organic farming typically yields less product – about 19-25% less. Once we account for that efficiency difference and examine environmental performance per amount of food produced, the organic advantage becomes less certain (few studies have examined this question). Indeed, on some variables, such as water quality and greenhouse gas emissions, organic farms may perform worse than conventional farms, because lower yields per hectare can translate into more environmentally damaging land-clearing.
The jury’s still out on whether the comsumer is better off, too.
What’s good: For consumers in countries with weak pesticide regulations, like India, organic food reduces pesticide exposure. Organic ingredients also most likely have slightly higher levels of some vitamins and secondary metabolites.
What’s not-so-good: Scientists can’t confirm whether these minor micronutrient differences actually matter for our health. Because the difference in the nutritional value of organic and conventional food is so small, you’d do better just eating an extra apple every day, whether it’s organic or not. Organic food is also more expensive than conventional food at present and therefore inaccessible to poor consumers.
Organic methods bring certain benefits for farmers, some costs and many unknowns.
What’s good: Organic agriculture is typically more profitable – up to 35% more, according to a meta-analysis of studies across North America, Europe and India – than conventional farming. Organic also provides more rural employment opportunities because organic management is more labour-intensive than conventional practices. For workers, though, the biggest advantage is that organic decreases their exposure to toxic agrochemicals.
What’s not-so-good: We still don’t know whether organic farms pay higher wages or offer better working conditions than conventional farms. Organic farm workers are most likely exploited in similar ways as those tilling the fields on conventional farms.
In short, we cannot determine yet whether organic agriculture could feed the world and reduce the environmental footprint of agriculture while providing decent jobs and giving consumers affordable, nutritious food.
It’s a lot to ask of one industry, and there are still just too many unanswered questions. Some of these questions relate to agriculture, such as whether organic farms can eventually close the yield gap with conventional farms and whether there are enough organic fertilisers to produce all the world’s food organically.
But some questions are also about humanity’s collective future. Can people in the rich world learn to change our diet and reduce food waste to avoid having to increase food production as the global population grows? And are enough people willing to work in agriculture to meet the needs of labour-intensive organic farms?
A more useful question is whether we should continue to eat organic food and expand investment in organic farming. Here the answer is a definitive yes.
Organic agriculture shows significant promises in many areas. We would be foolish not to consider it an important tool in developing more sustainable global agriculture.
Only 1% of agricultural land is organically farmed worldwide. If organic land continues to expand at the same rate that it has over the past decade, it will take another century for all agriculture to be organic.
But organic farming’s influence goes far beyond that 1% acreage. Over the past 50 years, organic farms have provided conventional agriculture with examples of new ways to farm and acted as a testing ground for a different set of management practices, from diversifying crop rotations and composting to using cover crops and conservation tillage. Conventional agriculture has neglected these sustainable practices for too long.
So yes, you should identify and support those organic farms that are doing a great job of producing environmentally friendly, economically viable, and socially just food. Conscientious consumers can also push to improve organic farming where it is not doing so well – for example on yields and worker rights.
As scientists, we must close some of the critical knowledge gaps about this farming system to better understand its achievements and help address its challenges.
But in the meantime, everyone can learn from successful organic farms and help improve the other 99% of agriculture that’s feeding the world today.
Honest to Goodness has won three categories including ‘Favourite Organic Brand’, ‘Best Organic Wholesaler’ and ‘Best Organic Online Store’ at this year’s Organic Consumer Choice Awards (OCCAs).
This is the second year running the Sydney based organic food supplier has won all three categories in the consumer vote. With strong growth in recent years, the company stocks over 1000 organic and natural products and maintains a strong and diverse distribution in independent supermarkets, health food and local stores across Australia.
“We are excited to be recognised by our customers for the second year in a row as a trusted and loved organic brand,” said Matt Ward, Managing Director and Owner of Honest Goodness.
“Being a small business in a niche and fast growing industry has been advantageous for us as we are able to listen to what the customers have to say and adapt where needed whilst still staying true to our principles.
“Our customers have always valued quality ingredients and the benefits organic food provides.”
Founded as a market stall in 2002 by Matt and Karen Ward, the company actively supports the organic industry, sustainability and community in dealings with their suppliers and customers. Wherever possible it sources organic, fair trade or biodynamic products and prefer locally grown products in support of local communities and regional Australia.
The awards, organised annually by the Centre for Organic Research & Education (CORE) as part of National Organic Week, are the only organic awards program decided by consumers.
“After 8 years of running these awards the program consistently achieves significant increases in sales of organic products by building customer loyalty to organic brands involved in the awards. The OCCAs also recognises those brands that have a customer focus resulting in increased capacity in the industry,” said Eric Love, Chairman, CORE.
Australian Organic Awareness Month, returning in September, will this year ask the question ‘what really is organic?’.
“There is a significant and undeniable growth in the popularity of organic products,” said Paul Stadhams, CEO of event organiser Australian Organic.
“And now more than ever as a leading body in the industry, we are making it a priority that all Australians understand what makes an organic product just that – organic.”
The organic industry is worth over $1.8billion to the Australian economy and this revenue is expected to grow by 5.6 per cent over the next year nationally with a predicted growth of 15 per cent internationally.
“It is a common misconception that because the word ‘organic’ might appear on a label that the product must be good for you,” continued Stadhams. “However this isn’t necessarily the case. We want people to understand that if you want to buy organic then you need to look for a certified organic logo like our ACO Bud logo. This is your 100 per cent guarantee that you are buying real, honest organic products.”
Australian Certified Organic is one of seven certification bodies nationally and their ACO Bud logo has been identified as the most popular and most recognised certification logo.
The ACO Bud logo appears on over 17,000 products covering everything you might need from fresh produce and beverages to textiles, cosmetics, cleaning products, bedding, clothing, beauty products, sanitary items, gardening and even pet food.
“People might not realise how diverse the certified organic market is,” commented Australian Organic Chairman Dr Andrew Monk. “It really is possible to purchase pretty much everything you need certified organic!’”
Australian Organic Awareness Month will run from the 1st to the 30th September 2016. Interviews with Australian Organic Ambassadors, or staff are available on request. Australian Organic Awareness Month Packs are available on request.
Arcadian Organic & Natural Meat Company has won gold twice at the 2015 Australian Organic Annual Awards. The ceremony was held in the Lockyer Valley, Queensland, on 27 November. The awards received were ‘Best Organic Food Product’ (for the new Paleo beef sausage under their Cleaver’s brand) and ‘Export Market Leader.’
The organic food sector is one of the fastest growing categories in Australia. The estimated value of the certified organic industry is $AUD1.72B per annum.
Australian organic exports alone are now worth $AUD340 million. With so much opportunity at home and abroad, Arcadian is staying focused on developing new and innovative products. The company goal is to remain a leader in the Australian organic food industry and a leading organic exporter.
“Our Cleaver’s brand Paleo beef sausages have only been on shelves since July of this year. Its success, so soon after launching the product, has lead us to develop a family of other Paleo products to offer alongside this award-winning beef sausage,” said Mick Dorahy, Chief Operating Officer and head of the Cleaver’s business.
“Consumers are becoming increasingly savvy about the quality of their diet and their desire to source quality organic products. The awards help to validate how important it is to maintain the high standards of our industry and continually innovate in the development of new products to meet the needs of our customers”, said Dorahy.
On receiving the Export Market Leader award, CEO of Arcadian Organic, Alister Ferguson, said, “We are so delighted to be the recipient of this award. We have worked particularly hard to build our export business. Over 75 per cent of our product is exported and we continue to drive new opportunities across Asia and the United States.”
“We feel humbled by the recognition of this award and excited about the growth of our business from increasing overseas demand for quality organic Australian beef and lamb.
“Clean Eating” labelling; a trend in 2015 that has inspired back to basics approach in product development which has seen a surge in the reporting of “free from” launches and “flexitarian” options.
New global products tracked with “organic” labelling have risen from 6.3 per cent in the first half of 2013 to 9.5 per cent in the first half of 2015.
According to Director of Innovation at Innova Market Insights Lu Ann Williams, 2016 may see further interest in a return to natural food processing as links to ‘real’ food are re-established.
“Many consumers don’t actually need products that are free from gluten, wheat and dairy, but are demanding them anyway, as they believe them to be healthier. Industry has little choice but to respond and the recent surge in mainstream gluten free products has been incredible.”
In outlining the emerging trends for 2016, Williams believed that health-conscious consumers that reduced their consumption of meat are having a major impact on new product activity.
The combination of shared health, sustainability and animal welfare concerns are changing the technological handling and development of alternative protein sources and animal-friendly treatment.
Established food processing practices that have been around for centuries are in the spotlight. They bring with them a natural and authentic image to counteract some of the negative perceptions of heavily processed foods.
Changes in children’s diets have also affected food trends over the past year, as they are encouraged to consume fusion smoothies and vegetable pastas which further indicate a possible growth in vegetable consumption amongst adults.
A new vitalvegetables range has been introduced in Australian retailers that aim to improve understanding of the healthy nutrients contained in the products.
Following more than ten years of research identifying the best varieties and combinations of vegetables, the products contain high levels of nutrients good for health.
A combination of vitamins A, C and K mean that an average product would be beneficial for a healthy immune system and for bone health.
According to Dr Carolyn Lister from Plant & Food Research, the developed products have been designed to retain a high concentration of key nutrients for consumer health.
“We recognise that consumers want to be healthy, and through the vitalvegetables research we’ve made it easier for them to manage their diets to ensure they’re eating the right nutrients for the health benefits that matter to them,” Dr Lister said.
Growers, packers, exporters and shipping companies have a common interest in providing the best possible quality produce to export markets.
Quality cannot be improved during handling and transport, but the rate at which it is lost can be reduced.
Each particular overseas market and/or customer has product specifications, for example, the size, colour and maturity of produce.
Thus produce should be grown with the intention of supplying a particular customer, and the harvesting, grading and packing should be carried out in accordance with those specifications.
The research team has worked with growers to determine the best way to grow and harvest the vegetables in order to optimise nutrients, developing processes that will assist in the maintenance of nutrients through the packaging and transportation of products to consumer purchasing.
New research from the University of Adelaide suggests that food labelling has still been found to be inadequate by consumers trying to make ethical food choices.
According to the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA), many products claiming to be ‘organic’ can only be 100 per cent certified if a label is issued by an approved certifier.
NASAA General Manager Ben Copeman said the difference between products labelled ‘certified organic’ and ‘organic’ had confused Australian consumers when buying high quality organic produce.
“Certified organic products carry a certification logo and certification number. This is the customer’s assurance that there is a third party verification of the integrity of every step of the production process, from paddock to plate”
“On the other hand, products that are merely labelled ‘organic’ may not be free of chemical residue or may be fully imported and packaged in Australia, with the ingredients unlikely to be certified to an internationally recognised standard such as the Australian Standard,” Copeman said.
The National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia (NASAA) was formed in 1986 and supports the education of industry and consumers on organic, biodynamic and sustainable agricultural practices, and was Australia’s first organic certifier.
Today, its certification arm, NASAA Certified Organic (NCO), provides certification and inspection services to assist Certified Organic operators access every organic market in the World.
NCO is the largest certifier of agricultural land in the world. NCO certifies more than 1,000 operations in 13 countries, certifying some 12m ha of agricultural land worldwide.