Organic is the future norm for plant-based supplements: Nordic producer
With big Scandinavian retailers ICA and Axfood growing organic product sales, organic is going mainstream and supplements will not be immune to this, according to the company, which recently gained Euroleaf organic certification for its lingonberry, bilberry, chaga and pine bark extracts.
“We think supplements will see such trends within the next five years, where major volumes will be organic,” the company’s CEO Stein Ulve told us.
“Offering the organic and natural ingredients at the same price as non-organic and synthetic ingredients will improve the speed of the transition.”
It’s no secret organic food is on the rise.
Demand for organic food and drink slowed in the immediate aftermath of the global economic recession, but has since recovered in the strongest Eurozone economies and the US bringing in retail sales of $16.7bn (€14.8bn) in 2014 in Europe, according to Euromonitor International data.
Organic agriculture in the EU has been rapidly developing over the past few years.
Eurostat data shows the ‘EU-27’ in 2011 had a total area of 9.6 million hectares cultivated as organic, up from 5.7 million in 2002.
While this represents a big increase, this organic land represents only 5.4% of total utilised agricultural area in Europe.
The EU countries with the highest proportions of organically farmed land are: Austria (19%), Sweden (15.7%), Estonia (14%), Czech Republic (13%) and Latvia (10%).
But do people care if their supplement pills are organic?
For Ulve any interest in organic supplements would come down to a desire for traceability and sustainability.
“We think people care about origin and that they can identify the source, that products are natural and that all things they put in their mouth are sustainable, healthy and ecofriendly,” said Ulve.
“In our case, organic certification gives increased transparency and a trustworthy third party verification. Organic supplements is still an emerging category, yet being established fast.”
This trend had been particularly strong in the US, he said, where consumer mistrust of supplements was stronger.
Yet the European market is moving, he said, and Eevia Oy intends to be a forerunner in that with its range of extracts containing polyphenols, flavonoids, antioxidants and beta-glucans.
Ulve said going organic helped the company “clarify the value proposition we wish to make to our customers”.
Costs of the process, which took over a year, are hard to calculate because of increased spending on up-stream resources for raw materials, he said.
However benefits through improved quality and sometimes better prices made it worthwhile, he said.
“All in all this has been a value decision, not a purely ROI [return on investment] decision.”
Born to be wild
Operating as Fenola Oy since it was founded in 2013, in January this year the company renamed itself Eevia Oy – meaning ‘new life’ – as part of its plans to commit solely to organic Arctic ingredients.
Eevia Oy produces standardised plant extracts from uncultivated, wild-growing plant materials hand-picked from forests in Finland and Lapland.
About 99% of all Finnish-Lapland forests are organic certified and the company makes use of regional ‘everyman’s right’ laws to source in this way.
“Wild means that they are not from plants which are planted, farmed and cultivated, but from plants which grow in the wild, natural flora and habitat.
"The organic certified forests in Finnish Lapland are really vast and the plants and berries collected for domestic and industrial use are only very small amount of yearly crops,” he told us.
The company has a total annual output of about 100 tonnes of the extracts, but it has plans to scale up production as interest from France, Germany, South Korea, Australia and the UK moves possibilities beyond its biggest current market Finland.
“We have clear indications on high growth rate and increasing demand, so we anticipate delivering high volumes in future.
“According to our estimates it will be a high-volume business in the future when organic becomes mainstream.”