Organic food continues to grow in popularity as we look towards 2021.

According to the Soil Association Certification’s 2020 Organic Market Report, the market for organic food and drink in the UK reached a record £2.45 billion in 2019, representing an annual growth of 4.5%. The report makes particular reference to increased sales in organic poultry and eggs of 12% – despite the rise of veganism – and recognised organic wine as the star with sales rising by almost 50%.

With UK consumers now spending £200m a month on organic food and drink, how is the industry poised to move forward into 2021? Changing consumer behaviour, as well as new regulatory demands, will undoubtedly have an impact.

How is consumer behaviour shifting towards organic and sustainable options?

As consumers become more conscious about the ingredients and origin of the products they buy, organic and sustainable food and drink options are increasing in prevalence. Concerns around chemicals, pesticides and fertilisers, as well as ethical considerations around animal welfare, are also serving to drive this behaviour. 

What are the regulatory changes planned?

EU regulations stipulate the specifications that products must meet to be labelled as ‘organic’. The legislation covers the limited application of herbicides, pesticides and artificial fertilisers, as well as restricting the use of hormones, antibiotics and genetic modifications. A certifying body then confirms that the final products are at least 95% organic, with a maximum of 5% permitted from non-organic origins. Currently, natural flavourings are excluded from the 95% calculation, as they are not considered to be agricultural ingredients. 

New legislation coming into force on 1 January 2022 is set to change these requirements. EU regulation 2018/848 dictates that natural flavourings will need to be at least 95% derived from a natural named source or 100% for extracts. Secondly, flavourings will be considered an agricultural ingredient and therefore will be incorporated into the 95% calculation.

The regulation is designed to maintain fair competition for farmers, preserve consumer trust and reduce the change of fraud within the sector. 

When will regulation 2018/848 come into force?

Following a one year delay, the legislation is due to come into force from the 1 January 2022. 

Impact of Brexit

At the time of writing, there continues to be uncertainty around the impact of Brexit on organic trading and labelling requirements going into 2021. The current government position is that the UK will continue to recognise the EU regulations on organic food and drink, albeit with additional importing requirements. 

Opportunities for organic and natural flavoured products

According to Mintel, in the five years up to August 2020, the percentage of organic food and drink launches containing a flavouring ingredient has remained relatively static at around 18-20%. Driven by the combination of shifting consumer habits and the upcoming regulatory changes, there are opportunities for organic flavour innovation in the market going into 2021. 

Mintel recognises that processed categories including carbonated soft drinks and confectionary present opportunities for organic-compatible flavourings. As organic, ethical and sustainable options move more into the mainstream, consumers are expecting viable choices in every category. Alluding to a call for improved education, Mintel describes how consumers from selected EU countries tended towards ‘all-natural’ ingredients in processed food and drink categories as opposed to ‘organic’. 

At Uren, we offer a comprehensive range of organic flavourings and extracts that are fully compliant with new regulatory requirements. Our team of experts are ready to help you to take your organic products forward in 2021. For further information on this article or to learn more about how Uren can support your plans for 2021, please contact sales@uren.com.