Food manufacturers search for organic ingredients

The booming US organic foods industry is creating opportunities for local and international ingredients suppliers in a market where demand is significantly outstripping local supply.

This situation was highlighted at the recent Healthy Foods Conference at Natural Products Expo East in Washington, DC, where a Kraft Foods spokesperson said the conglomerate was finding it difficult to source enough organic ingredients to meet the needs of its ever-growing organics division.

?If any of you folks are organic ingredients suppliers, get in touch with us because we need you,? Kraft Foods North America?s senior vice president of external development and strategy, and general manager of natural and organic foods, Kevin Scott, told attendees. He highlighted organic colours, flavours, stabilisers and emulsifiers as being in particularly short supply.

European and Asian suppliers are seeking the required US National Organic Programme (NOP) certification to exploit a market Nutrition Business Journal valued at $10.4 billion in 2003 and growing at about 20 per cent per year. Many European markets have dipped below 10 per cent growth. Indeed, in many of these markets organic ingredients suppliers are experiencing lax demand, according to Amarjit Sahota, director of European organic and natural products business research consultancy Organic Monitor.

?We have heard of many organic ingredients producers in Europe and Asia taking the organic route and when the conversion process was complete, there was low demand from the market,? he said. ?They are now unable to sell their organic ingredients locally, so they are naturally looking to get their ingredients certified for the US market, where there are greater opportunities, particularly in organic beverages like juices; dairy alternatives; smoothies; and processed foods such as breakfast cereals, biscuits, chocolate and snacks. There is also growing demand from countries in the Asia-Pacific region.?

However, Grace Marroquin, president of California ingredients supplier Marroquin International Organic Commodity Services, said she was unaware of many organic ingredients shortages in the US. ?Maybe some of these organic food companies are not sourcing widely enough,? she said. ?Demand is rising but the ingredients industry is responding pretty quickly — both locally and in export.?

A UK-based Soil Association certification spokesperson said despite discussions between the US Department of Agriculture and the European Union, standards equivalence does not exist and so all ingredients sold in the US market must gain NOP certification. This would significantly open the US market, she said.

The US Organic Trade Association provides a service whereby organic foods producers can place ?ingredients wanted? ads on their Web page.

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