Arla Foods has unveiled new standards aimed at growing the size of its annual organic dairy business in the UK from 180 million to 270 million litres over the next five years.
The new target to achieve more than 50% growth across its organic retail and foodservice business by 2026 comes as the organic category emerges as one of the strongest grocery sectors during the past 12 months. Sales have grown by 9.4%, compared with just 5.6% for its non-organic counterparts, the dairy co-op said.
Under the supplier’s new Organic 2.0 standards, Arla’s organic farmers will be required to convert to 100% green electricity from renewable sources, such as wind, solar, biogas and hydropower.
They will also be tasked with achieving a 30% reduction in CO2e emissions per kg of milk by 2028, two years before the co-operative’s wider 2030 target for conventional farms.
A new list of Organic 2.0 criteria will also come into effect for Arla farmers from January 2022 covering climate impact, soil health, biodiversity and animal welfare (see box, below).
In the UK, Arla’s organic milk, butter and cheese products are sold in supermarkets through the Yeo Valley brand as part of its licence partnership with Yeo Valley Farms as well as through retailer own labels and via its Arla Organic Free Range Milk.
In addition to regular industry standards for organic milk, Arla farmers must meet a list of new Organic 2.0 criteria from January 2022, including the following:
- Conduct a carbon assessment of the soil to create a baseline for measuring further improvements in the soil carbon levels. The soil samples will be analysed by a third party lab to track progress on organic matter, organic carbon, total carbon, total nitrogen and carbon:nitrogen ratio.
- From 2022 conduct an annual self-assessment of soil health indicators, for example, scoring assessments of soil smell, spading ease, and earthworm counts.
- On an annual basis self-assess and register biodiversity activities, for example, creation of flower-rich pollinator habitats, letting sections of the land grow naturally, planting hedgerows and allowing them to flower.
- Implement a minimum of seven out of 33 biodiversity conservation measures, which are included in a specially created ‘best practice’ catalogue for Arla farmers.
- Participate in Arla’s climate check programme (to track and reduce farm emissions).
- Accelerate Arla’s 30% CO2e reduction target from 2030 to 2028.
- Convert to 100% green electricity from renewable energy sources (wind, solar, biogas, hydropower).
• Increase the minimum number of days that cows are on grass from 120 to 150.
• Provide all animals above six months of age access to cow brushes – with a minimum requirement of one brush per 50 animals or one brush per robotic milking machine where relevant.
The supplier also sells its organic dairy products to a number of restaurants and food chains in the foodservice sector under the Arla Organic brand.
Ash Amirahmadi, Arla Foods’ UK MD, said there was “big potential” for organic dairy in the UK “as more and more British consumers are turning to organic food”.
“Just like in other parts of Europe, we believe the trend of organic dairy will continue to grow in the UK,” he said.
“Across the board, Arla farmers have significantly increased work on farms around biodiversity, reducing carbon emissions and improving animal welfare. Historically, organic farmers have often been the ones to establish new practices in these areas, and with these revised standards, they are once again forging new paths.”
Arla said it expected to source the initial part of the growth ambition for its organic business primarily through increased production from existing organic farmers.
Last month, Amirahmadi warned of a “much more challenging” second half of the year despite posting strong results for the first six months of 2021.