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Five fresh food trends that will shape the future of organic food

Increased health and environmental awareness continue to impact consumer choices, and that trend is fuelling ongoing growth in the organic food sector. 

According to Statista, the global organic food market was worth US$168 billion in 2020 and is tipped to reach $369 billion by 2027, representing a cumulative annual growth rate of 12.4 per cent from 2020 to 2027.

With a multitude of consumer research and market analysis being released around food trends, including the organic sector, it is important to determine which ones are significant enough to disrupt the industry. 

Hanni Rutzler, a food and nutrition expert from Germany, has designed a food trend map into thematic clusters for businesses to spot, which can help drive their businesses strategically. 

Based on Rutzler’s map, here are five organic food-specific trends to watch for this year and beyond.



What is organic food?

Organic food is grown without synthetic chemicals, like pesticides or fertilisers, and does not contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Organic foods can include fresh produce, meats, dairy products, and processed foods such as crackers, drinks, and frozen meals. It even extends to juices and wines.


A mother and her daughter browse organic produce in a supermarket. Image: @cookienanster via Twenty20

Plant-based

According to a Bloomberg Intelligence report, the global demand for plant-based foods could see five-fold growth by 2030, supported by growing demand for sustainable products.

Some of the factors responsible for the increased consumption of plant-based food include health and environmental concerns, decreased cost of plant-based food products, and technological advancements that improve its palatability.

"Demand is increasing as companies like Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, and [alt-milk brand] Oatly bring alternative protein products to more restaurants and grocery stores," reports Fortune. "Legacy food companies like Tyson Foods, Kellogg and Nestle are also competing with their own plant-based burgers and milk.”


Net-zero food

Net-zero refers to the balance between the amount of carbon emissions produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere.

Net-zero foods include products manufactured where total carbon dioxide emissions have been calculated and sequestered back from the atmosphere in various ways. Therefore, the impact of the food-manufacturing process on the climate is "neutralised."

Some net-zero initiatives include reforestation, use of renewable energy, fossil-fuel reduction, water conservation, and waste management. 

"I believe we can get to 'net zero,' but it requires innovation along the entire value chain," David Welch, co-founder of food-tech Synthesis Capital, told Ag Funder News.

"You can't just rely on companies blending the same ingredients in slightly different ways. You need to go all the way up to the starting material and innovate with 'net zero' in mind."

Advocates say this means starting with practices, such as agroecology and regenerative farming, which aim to care for the soil and shun synthetic, chemical-based fertilisers and pesticides.

"These methods reduce fossil fuel use on organic farms and boost the potential of soil to store more carbon." shared James Woodward, sustainable farming officer, Sustain, a UK nonprofit advocating on food and agriculture policies.


Sustainable livestock farming

Sustainable livestock farming is achieved by using methods and practices that are environmentally sound, economically viable, and protect public health. Products of high-quality, pasture-raised livestock, especially organic, are more favoured by those improving their dietary choices and products marketed as "eco-restorative".

According to the World Bank, sustainable livestock production can be achieved by increasing productivity and decreasing GHG emissions through improved livestock management, adopting energy-efficient equipment and renewable energy to reduce fossil fuel use; and increasing soil carbon sequestration through improved grazing practices. 


Eco-convenience

Eco-convenience is simply making eco-friendly options more convenient for the consumer.
"There is a disconnect for most consumers between the convenience they want and their expectations around sustainability," reports Marketing Week. "It appears that customers aren't willing to go out of their way to buy eco-friendly brands, which means marketers need to do more to differentiate."

An example of an eco-convenient product is from UK organic cereal brand Alara, which recently launched a Singles range using net-zero ingredients packed in home-compostable sachets, with an FSC card outer box. 


Fairtrade food

Consumers often confuse fair trade and organic food. While it is true that both are ethically produced "organic" sets standards for agricultural methods and the use of natural resources while "fair trade" sets standards for trading with suppliers and working with people.

Fairtrade is also included in principles of organic farming, so expect to see the concept of 'fairness' taking a more central role in organic food messaging. 

An example of fair trade is an organic coffee grower that pays its workers well and gives them a safe and healthy work environment.

Moving mainstream

All five of these trends can be said to apply to the broader food manufacturing and supply industry. But as organic foods move more mainstream in markets all over the world, consumers who have already adopted an organic-driven diet will now be looking to further changes to their lifestyles to live more responsibly – whether for their own good, or the good of the broader community and the planet itself. 

That’s why retailers and restaurants alike need to review all organic components of their stock ranges or menus, respectively, to make sure they are still on-trend and reflect new consumer preferences. 

The five trends above mark a great place to start. 

Organic artichokes on sale in a greengrocer. Image: @philipm1652 via Twenty20.

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