German Food and Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt wandered over to the Organic Trade Association's (OTA's) spacious display area at this year's BioFach World Organic Trade Fair in Nuremberg, Germany, on Wednesday to get a closer look at the American organic products being showcased. He sipped on American-made organic soup from Amy's Kitchen, and then got a briefing on the prized organic pecans grown in the rich river bottom soils of southwestern Missouri.
The visit by the top agricultural official in Germany, the biggest market for organic in Europe, occurred on the first day of the world's largest all-organic trade show, where the American organic brand – with organic products ranging from gluten-free snacks and organic spirits to skincare products and bbq sauce – is being prominently promoted by OTA.
OTA is hosting 14 organic product suppliers at the huge trade show this week, running Feb. 11-14. On display in the large OTA area within the USA Pavilion for the thousands of international visitors attending the show – including a host of government officials like Minister Schmidt -- are products from Acme Organics, Amy's Kitchen, Earth Circle Organics, Earth Supplied Products, Food Guys, GoMarco, Good Clean Love, Great River Organic Milling Co., Luke's Organic, Missouri Northern Pecan Growers, Natural Bio-Active Products Organoderm, Pinto Barn, Don't Go Nuts, Shy Poke Spirits and Vermints.
"OTA is proud to be introducing these wonderful organic products to international buyers, and to be promoting awareness of the U.S. organic brand," said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of OTA. "Exports are increasingly important to U.S. organic producers and handlers, and many of today's organic exporters are new to the export business. It is important that OTA helps the organic sector pursue activities to grow its markets."
"BioFach is a major opportunity for us," said Jaap Langenberg, president of Luke's Organic. "Being part of the OTA pavilion is a guarantee to meet quality buyers from around the world. Day one was already a great success."
BioFach is the world's premier organic trade show, with more than 41,000 visitors from 129 countries in 2014, and almost 2,400 exhibitors participating. OTA has taken part in the trade show for more than ten years, and began hosting American organic product makers at the show in 2011. The higher profile for the U.S. organic companies enabled by OTA allows the depth and diversity of the U.S. organic industry to be put on display, while helping organic suppliers make some valuable business connections.
This year marks the third anniversary of the U.S./EU organic equivalency arrangement. Under the historic arrangement, the U.S. and the EU recognize each other's organic programs to be equivalent, allowing certified organic products to move freely between the U.S. and the EU. American organic exports to the EU are up 42% since the implementation of the arrangement, but there still exists some consumer skepticism in the EU regarding the quality of U.S. organic products. OTA's efforts are focused on gaining consumer trust in the American organic brand, and strengthening recognition of the high quality, diversity and consistency of U.S. organic products.
In addition to trade show activities, BioFach presents a comprehensive education program covering a range of organic topics. OTA will participate in two of the sessions, with OTA's Senior International Trade Manager Monique Marez leading a discussion on the current state of equivalency between the U.S. and EU organic systems, and opportunities for improvement as the bilateral equivalency arrangement comes up for renewal.
Demand for organic in the United States is booming, and organic sales in 2013 posted a new record of $35.1 billion. The global appetite for organic has been exploding as well. U.S. organic exports in 2013 reached a new high of $537 million, up more than 20 percent from the previous year.
"People all over the world are adopting healthier diets and eating more organic, but they're often unaware of the trustworthiness and the variety of American organic products," said Marez. "It's our goal to help educate that consumer – wherever he or she may live – about the integrity of the U.S. organic seal, to familiarize them with the organic products available, and to help organic suppliers connect with and explore untapped markets."
OTA was awarded a grant for $784,902 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Market Access Program (MAP) to promote U.S. organic products abroad in 2015 in activities like BioFach. In Anaheim, California, at Natural Products Expo West in early March, one of the biggest trade shows in this country, OTA will bring stateside more than 20 organic food buyers from Europe and Canada, Asia and Southeast Asia, South and Central America to talk more business with U.S. organic suppliers. OTA is also continuing to assist U.S. organic exporters with OTA's online U.S. Organic Export Directory and its Global Organic Trade Guide.