In Sweden, the total sales of organic and KRAV-labeled products have increased by 30 percent in the first half of 2014. Improved interest in healthy, free-of-crop-protection food products are the main reason for this increase. The Swedish growth in sales is exceptional compared to other countries with significant sales of organic products.

The figures have been published in a half-year report by consultancy Ekoweb, commissioned by KRAV, a Swedish organization that upholds regulations for sustainable agriculture. The four largest retail chains have reported significant increases. Sales at ICA increased by 52%, at Coop by 37%, at Axfood by 44% (at Axfood's discount chain Willys even by 57%), and at Bergendahls by 44%. Lidl did not release any data, but does report a noticeable upturn in sales of organic products.

Increased awareness
According to store representatives, the main reason for the record sales is that the interest of consumers for organic products is swiftly increasing. This growing interest coincides with rising awareness of supply origin, as well as the demand for production free of chemical crop protection. "Never before have so many people bought organic food. 2014 will be a record year, and market share for organic products will increase greatly," says Lars Nellmer, CEO of KRAV. About 80% of the organic consumer products in Sweden has a KRAV label. The rest is certified according to EU regulations for organic food.

With more than a quarter of the total sales of organic products, ICA is the largest player in the organic market. In the first half of the year, its sales rose by 52% compared to the same period in 2013. "Interesting to note is that the second quarter did even better than the first, with sales increasing by 62%. There is a clear upward trend. Customer panels of ICA show that more and more consumers consider buying organic food in the future," says Maria Smith, senior manager environmental and social responsibility at ICA.

Coop also sees its sales of organic-products grow significantly (+ 37%). Coop is the store with the highest organic share of total food sales. "Our goal for 2014 is that the proportion of organic products will increase to 8%. It seems that we will achieve this despite the challenge of there not always being enough organic products available to meet demand. Eventually, by 2020, we want an organic share of 20%," says Louise König, sustainability manager at Coop.

Sales at Axfood, with stores like Hemköp and Willys, rose by 44% in the first six months of the year. Willys in particular did well, with increased sales of nearly 57%. Åsa Domeij, head of environmental affairs at Axfood: "These sales are fantastic and we’ll continue to invest in organic products, attempting to lower prices in the process. Hemköp wants to achieve a bio-share of 6% in 2014 and a share of 10% in 2017.”

Bergendahls, with its City Gross stores, also recorded impressive growth rates in sales of organic produce. Between January and August 2014, these improved by 44%. "We plan to boost our efforts when it comes to organic," says Carola Grahn, manager of organic products at Bergendahls.

Still behind

If sales will continue to grow at the same rate in the second half of 2014, it is expected that the total market share of organic products will increase significantly. That said, the Swedish bio-food sales are still behind those of other countries. For example, in the Danish food trade in 2013, the revenue share of organic products example was 8%, while the figure was only 3.8% in Sweden.

Although the increase in organic sales in Sweden seems impressive so far, several other countries are also recording promising figures. In total it is estimated that the global market for organic products will increase by approximately 10% in 2014. The 2014 sales growth in Germany is estimated at 8 to 10%, which would be the largest increase since 2011. In the US, they expect a sales increase of 10% and in Denmark from 5 to 10%.