In the last three years, the volume of organic apples delivered to fruit processor VOG Products in Leifers has more than tripled. Senior Key Account Manager at VOG Products, Martin Bristot, told Raiffeisen Nachrichten: "The organic market for apple juices and apple purees has long since outgrown a niche."
What are the current trends in the international organic market?
Bristot: "Across Europe, but especially in South Tyrol, the supply of organic apples is growing exponentially. At our plant in Laives, we now receive more than three times as much organic raw material than we did three years ago. This is a very positive trend, because sustainable cultivation means dispensing with a large number of pesticides. However, it is also a challenge to place these increasing volumes of organic produce on the market for apple juices and purees. Currently, demand does not always keep pace with the supply."
Martin Bristot, senior key account manager at VOG Products
Image: Raiffeisen News
What is the situation regarding supermarkets?
Bristot: "Currently, discounters like Lidl or Aldi are jumping on the organic bandwagon. They have set themselves the goal of converting a certain percentage of their assortment to organic. We see this especially in Germany, but also in France, Austria and the northern countries. This is boosting the saleable volumes of apple juice enormously. Unfortunately, this trend is at the expense of classic organic stores and premium stores, because their margins are shrinking, even though many of them have been relying on organic products for many years."
Are there differences within organic?
"Absolutely. Demeter and Bioland are focusing on even stricter rules than those set out in the EU organic regulations. This is an absolutely growing niche in Germany, for example, which is the most important apple juice market. The quantities demanded there are increasing significantly. VOG Products is Bioland certified, and part of our suppliers deliver Bioland and Demeter goods. These quality aspects, combined with the origin being South Tyrol, is an important issue for many buyers and has become even more important in these times of Corona."
Which customer segments are most interested in organic?
"It is primarily the younger generations, like mothers buying organic baby food. But the "organic pioneers" -consumers who have been buying organic products for 20 years- are still and remain loyal buyers of organic products."
Is the Golden Delicious still the classic South Tyrolean organic apple?
"Yes - the Golden Delicious still accounts for the largest quantities of organic produce in our region. After that comes the Gala and, more recently, new varieties like the Pinova, Kanzi, Jazz, Bonita or Ambrosia."
Is organic apple juice still a niche product?
"The market has now become too big to call it 'niche'. The total Italian apple harvest is around 2.2 million tons - of which around 200,000 tons are of organic quality. In South Tyrol, more than 10% of the crop is made up of organic apples; Bio Südtirol and Bio Vinschgau are now the largest organic producers in Europe. We at VOG Products purchase our organic goods exclusively from our members. Accordingly, the supply of organic apples to our plant in Laives, as well as the production, is high. This has made us the world's largest organic producer of apple juice, concentrate and puree at one location."
Which organic product range is currently in high demand?
"Purees for baby food are always in high demand - they are often mixed with other fruit purees by our B2B customers. In France, drink pouches called "quetchies" are currently big sellers: they contain a thick puree that is consumed as a snack. An interesting trend can be observed in Italy: Here, the trend is moving from balsamic vinegar to apple cider vinegar - for which many manufacturers use our concentrate. And there is another surprise: The sugar debate in Europe means that fruit sweeteners are now often used instead of sugar. Jam manufacturers, fruit bar producers and bakeries are therefore happy to use our organic concentrate as well."
What direction will future developments take?
"There is a high level of organic awareness in the exotic markets with large purchasing power in Asia and also in the USA. I think a further surge in demand could come from there in the next few years. Overall, however, the organic issue is heavily dependent on developments in the fresh produce market and on farmers' decisions as to whether they want to produce organic or conventional produce."