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  • Introduction - organic coffee


    Organic products have come a long way since small groups of consumers started buying organic food directly from farms or from small health food shops, where quality was secondary as long as the products were organic. In the early 1990s supermarket chains started paying systematic attention to organic food. Year after year they have taken over market share from the specialized shops, to the point where growth in the market share of organic food today is mostly driven by them.

    In some countries supermarkets now account for more than 50% of organic food sales, and organic products are on offer in all Western countries. Increasing numbers of farmers in developed countries have entered organic farming, something that has even led to over-production of certain crops. It is estimated that well over 5 million hectares of land  in Europe is cultivated organically. Austria is the highest with as much as 13% of the total farm area  under organic cultivation.  The market share for organic products in Western countries ranges between 0.5% and 3% for food generally, but varies widely for different product groups. For instance, baby food in Germany and Denmark is reportedly more than 50% organic, and organic dairy products are best sellers as well, sometimes with a market share of 25%.

    The United States  remains the largest single market for organic products, followed by Germany. Consumption growth rates are high in most European Union countries but have been slowing in recent years and sales of organic products still comprise only a rather small part of the total food market.

    Certainly the world market for organic coffee is difficult to estimate: facts are difficult to come by and aspiring producers must also be careful not to confuse growing insistence on ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and GAP (Good Agricultural Practice) certification, with demand for pure organic coffee as such. Of course the large supermarket chains all carry their own range of organic products  and in  so doing they are undoubtedly raising both the profile and the market share of organics. However, not necessarily at the sort of premiums that producers may believe exist because most large chains do not hesitate to use their buying power to cap prices.

    Nevertheless, the growing presence of organic coffee on supermarket  shelves has  prompted  large roasters to evaluate the market potential with at least one organic brand in some countries. However, for the time being organic coffee still lies mostly within the domain of specialized, smaller roasters and a number of large supermarket chains.