The Danes are keen on organics so it is ironic their domestic market has reached a sales plateau. Even the path to the booming export market is not entirely straightforward says Ed Bedington To say organics is high on the political agenda in Denmark would be something of an understatement. The fact that the Danish Minister of Food, Ritt Bjerrergaard, runs her own organic orchard is just one example of how high a profile the organics industry enjoys throughout Denmark, a country famed for its environmental conscience. The Danes have spearheaded the organics movement since 1987 and organic farming will soon cover 10% of the country's total farming area. At the moment there are more than 3,700 organic farms, with conversions taking place all the time. But despite the high profile and strong government focus, the organics market in Denmark has ground to a halt. There was a huge explosion in the growth of organics throughout the 1990s, but the market appears to have now settled down and stagnated. The market in Denmark is very mainstream with 76% of all organic products sold through the big multiples like FDB. But industry watchers at the Danish Organics Service Centre say sales have hit a glass ceiling and will need further promotion to boost growth. However, while the home market has stuttered to a halt, albeit temporarily, the export market appears to be a world of opportunity for any organics producer. Last year, 45 Danish organics companies were exporting products worth a total value of 237 million Danish kroner. The UK proved one of the most attractive targets with 25 companies exporting into the British market. Tom Krog Nielsen is export consultant with the Organics Service Centre: "We try to help the organics companies export and promote their products. They range from small family run companies right up to the very big organisations." Nielsen joined the centre in January 1999 and said prior to that there was little activity on the export side and no promotion. Over in the UK more than 70% of the organics on the market is now imported. However, it is not an entirely smooth run for Danish companies, as Nielsen says there is one serious hurdle to any organics producer exporting to the UK. "We have a problem getting certification from organics movements like the Soil Association in Britain which effectively acts as a trade barrier. "We have to meet the SA's standards before getting their mark, and retailers in the UK generally demand an approval mark. Unfortunately we have different standards in Denmark from the UK." Organic pigmeat producer Friland Foods has managed to overcome this problem by receiving approval from Britain's Organic Farmers and Growers certification body and has seen demand for organic bacon and pigmeat explode, so much so that the firm is struggling to keep up with demand. Nielsen says that despite this, negotiations are continuing between the Soil Association and agencies in both Denmark and Sweden to try and agree equivalency standards. He adds: "We are not trying to push our way into the market, we just want recognition that our standards are as good as yours." Friland Foods' breakthrough saw the export of organic meat to the UK market for the year 1999-2000 leap up 500%. Dairy products, as well as forming the biggest sector of the organics market in Denmark, currently make up the bulk of organic exports with figures for 2000 putting them at 122 million Danish kroner. One of the biggest exporters in the dairy sector is Arla Foods, the Danish-Swedish giant, which exports its Harmonie Organic dairy range to the UK. Arla's senior brand manager Laurent Ponty says there is great deal of room for growth in the UK market. "There is still great potential in the sector overall, despite the fact it has already grown by more than 200% over the last two years." At the moment the vast majority of the UK's organic food is bought by a minority and Ponty is hoping to drive the organic movement into the mainstream. He says the key to this is through merchandising, promotions and advertising: "There's a lot of confusion surrounding organics. Advertising, therefore, needs to educate and inform people." The company's Harmonie Organic dairy range was the first organic brand to advertise on British television and this year it's being supported by a £2m marketing package, featuring more adverts starring Myrtle the cow and her owner Rosie. The adverts are also being screened at cinemas in a bid to reach families with children. Ponty adds: "If producers and retailers carefully consider ways to maximise merchandising, promotions and advertising, I think the organic sector will continue its impressive growth." Research and development is also playing a strong part in the organics industry, from new technology in equipment to the launch of Mini milk, containing only 0.5% fat (sitting half way between semi skimmed and skimmed), and only available as an organic line. The Organic Service Centre's Nielsen says despite lack of growth at home, there is a positive mood among producers. "No-one is expecting any negative results this year. People are focusing on export more and more because of the Danish market stagnation. It's a booming area to be in, things are moving at high speed all the time." {{Z SUPPLEMENTS }}