I can’t believe that my first visit to Biofach was a month ago! In 3 days I have seen, heard and tried a lot at Europe’s largest organic fair. The fair was incredibly big, with over 9 halls to discover!
Organic products themselves are not a trend anymore, but an integral part of the assortment of many companies. Today you can find organic products in every supermarket – 20 years ago it looked completely different. Organic has come a long way and achieved a lot in recent years: especially in the food sector, organic has already entered the mass market.
However, this makes a reorientation in the organic sector necessary: What’s the purpose of organic products? What image, what lifestyle would organic products like to transport? And how is this reflected in the products?
To find out more about the status quo and the latest developments, I walked through the novelties exhibition, looked at hundreds of products and picked out the most exciting trends for you. In this article, I considered mainly examples from the food sector. However, these trends can also be applied for other sectors of the organic sector.
My Top 5 Trends
Organic trend#1: Plant-based
Vegan products are becoming trendier and trendier. In addition to the organic label, you can find the vegan flower more and more often on the package of various products. Basically, I see the trend towards a more plant-based nutrition as a sensible development, because our unnatural consumption of animal products is responsible for 18% of global CO² emissions according to the FAO.
However, many vegan products are as highly processed as their “normal” counterparts. A lot of salt, sugar or other seasonings are necessary to make a vegetable sausage. Do we really need these highly processed products, packed in plastic? In my opinion, fried mushrooms are also a very tasty and healthy alternative to meat. And they are also unpacked!
Apropos unpacked: Not all „vegan“ manufacturers understood the importance of waste reduction/Zero Waste. I want to highlight the positive example of Taifun, a company that produces tofu products. One of the employees told me that Taifun had already thought about how it could deliver its soy and seitan products to customers without waste. For this, however, more decentralized structures are needed. The reason for this is that a piece of tofu can only be kept for a few days without packaging – just as long as „real“ meat.
Many other manufacturers were not so thoughtful and seemed to equate „vegan“ with „is automatically environmentally friendly, the packaging doesn’t matter“.
„This is an exotic fruit that can only be bought in a tin“, for example, I heard at a stand that wanted to bring the Jackfruit to the hungry trade fair visitors as a meat substitute. I countered that bananas, mangos and kiwis are also exotic fruits that I can buy (respectively dumpster) unpackaged. Because of difficulties in opening the fruit and leaking resins, the fruit is only available in 250g cans in Europe. For me this is a reason not to enjoy it.
Vegan nutrition can certainly make a major contribution to environmental protection. However, I believe that it is only one aspect under many aspects for a concious, environmentally friendly and beautiful lifestyle. I also think that this specific diet is not suitable for everyone to the same extent.
Certainly, we can make their contribution by reducing their consumption of animal products!
- The trend towards veganism was omnipresent at Biofach. However, I had the feeling that vegan-producing companies or vegan individuals were often content with simply being vegan. Quite a few vegans do not care whether their 50g pomegranate seeds are now packed in a disposable plastic box or the soy milk coffee is drunk in a To-Go cup. We need a holistic focus: How many animals die in the production of crude oil, which we so urgently need for the many disposable plastics?
#Bio-Trend 2 Free from…
Without gluten, without lactose, without animal products, without… I often wonder what is actually in the products when so much has to stay outside? There is no doubt that the trend towards allergies has increased sharply, especially in highly industrialized countries. But I do not believe that we can solve this problem by developing as many highly processed alternative products as possible.
For example, if someone says he can no longer tolerate milk, it is not always due to the industrialised substance lactose. Conventional feeding can also be the cause, as cows there receive unsuitable foods such as wheat, soy or maize and this is reflected in the composition of the milk. Then it is not enough simply to switch to lactose-free milk.
I myself have noticed that in some cases cheese leads to digestion problems: This is not due to lactose or other specific ingredients, but because I ate industrially processed cheese from intensive animal husbandry.
However, this cannot be compared to people who, for example, have an allergy to nuts and could die if traces of nuts are contained in a dish!
Many people also simply eat gluten-free or lactose-free because they find it hip. In my opinion, no healthy person should simply „for fun“ avoid natural, large food groups (e.g. grain) completely, if they do not really have a reason for it. Because „real“ allergy sufferers are really limited in their choice of food and would certainly eat differently without their allergy!
The demand for Free from… products was greatly accelerated by the #Biotrend 4, the trend towards ready-to-eat food. If there were no finished products, but only unprocessed products made from one or a few ingredients, then we would not need any special products labelled free from…
- Many free from… products are processed beyond recognition. That’s why they need such a label in the first place. In general, I can only advertise here for the enjoyment of as much unprocessed, pure organic food as possible. For me personally, this is a great way to maintain physical health.
#Biotrend 3 Small, smaller, smallest
For me; being a Zero Waster and a person who loves eating large portions this is the ultimate nightmare! Small, smaller, smallest seems to be the motto of many manufacturers. Bulgur risotto in a 37g package, baking powder in a 5g package (3 paper packages each sealed in plastic) and chocolate in a 40g package are just a few of the examples I saw at Biofach.
The organic sector wants to respond to the trend towards ever smaller households and ever smaller and more frequent meals: The fact is that more and more people in Central Europe are living alone. Moreover, many people seem to eat more 2 or 3 times a day, but around the clock! We have developed a snack and to go culture and sip our lactose-free, hip soy milk strawberry macchiato every 5 minutes for half an hour.
Eat-Stop-Eat, 2x a day, 3x a day, 5 a day, 10 a day…there are an incredible number of nutrition theories that want to explain how often you have to eat. There is no right answer for everyone. Just listen to your body! For me personally, it works best to eat an appreciably large portion 2-3 times a day. So I am full for some hours, satisfied and not permanently looking for the next snack.
Does this downsizing of portion sizes make sense? Not for everyone! I know from experience how different people’s feelings of hunger are. Maybe smaller packaging sizes can reduce food waste.
But the smaller the packaging, the larger the amount of waste and the more you pay for less!
For me unpacked shops are the ideal alternative! If you buy unpackaged, you can take as much or as little as you need at home. This way you can adjust the required quantities individually to your household and never have too much or too little at home. And no one pays more, no matter how much or how little they want to buy.
- The downsizing of portion sizes is a sign that organic simply keeps pace with a general trend in the other food industry. In my opinion, this trend is not critically enough questioned with regard to its environmental effects. A stronger focus on buying unpackaged – as much or as little as one wants – contributes much more to avoiding food waste and waste than tiny package sizes. I also see sharing food with neighbours and friends (food sharing) as a sound alternative.
Biotrend #4 Convenience food
I do not know how many bars I tried during these few days! What’s more? Ready-made pizza, ready-made risotto, ready-made sweet potato roasts, ready-made, welded crackers…finished products are usually more likely to be thought of when looking at conventional shelves. But the organic sector is also moving with the convenience trend.
Such products bring more speed into our lives. Anyone can conjure up a meal on the table in a shorter time that is ready and even organic. But how do these innovations benefit our lives?
Even if it means more people can be persuaded to consume organic food: Finished products are still less healthy than fresh products, mean a lot of waste and are more processed than natural food. Organic is not automatically healthier just because it is organic!
I believe that Slow Food is much better suited to the organic sector than Fast Food. Because it is only through good preparation that the organic ingredients really come into their own and develop their taste. And good preparation sometimes takes time, as I have often noticed when baking pizza or bread. Does this mean that organic always have to be impractical and time-consuming? No, because there are more than enough dishes you can prepare quickly, such as ratatouille with polenta or baked potatoes with various dips.
Slow food is also important for health aspects and personal well-being. It used to take me the longest lunch break before I finished my meal. For me, slow eating means more enjoyment and appreciation of what I eat.
- Pleasure, appreciation, time, quality… these are all values that are inseparably linked to organic. I therefore hope that the organic sector underlines these values more clearly and incorporates them into its philosophy. Because I believe we need this distinction from the conventional industry. Organic products should consciously position themselves higher quality, nobler and tastier!
5-minute terrine, canned ravioli in tomato sauce, ready-made baking mixes are foods that I normally associate with conventional large corporations and food manufacturers. In my opinion one of the most interesting trends is that more organic producers are literally imitating the products of the big companies!
This point is similar to point 4, but I think it is important to explicitly emphasise it again. I emphasize that organic is an independent philosophy that does not need to copy inventions from conventional companies! This may encourage some conventional buyers to buy more organic. But these imitations do not show people the purpose of organic!
- Organic products do not have to hide behind other inventions or copy others, but should be proud of their original ideas: Natural, down-to-earth food that tastes excellent even without sophisticated processing!
When you visit Biofach, you realize that organic is more than just a trend: Many of our own trends have long since developed in this industry as I pointed out in this article.
I think people have a coherent picture of the conventional food industry: it wants to produce cheap, fast, a lot. The foods are ingeniously processed, unhealthy and contain many superfluous additives.
Unfortunately, there is no clear picture of the organic sector. Not all companies sell organic products for the same reasons and not all have the same vision behind them. Many organic producers do not even want the world to eat 100% organically grown food!
I believe that the whole organic sector needs a stronger common goal, values and vision. A common denominator is important in order to achieve common goals and to form a stronger weight in the international debate on the future of organic farming and conscious consumption!
And this is probably one of the most challenging tasks for the organic sector in the coming years.
100% organic in our world. In my understanding, this is precisely the vision of organic: One day, we shall be able to offer high-quality, unprocessed and affordable food for the entire world population. Not only the food itself should be grown pesticide-free: Throughout the value chain, companies should be careful to work according to organic guidelines . For me, organic is a movement that can do much more than just offer pesticide-free cultivation and a bit of animal welfare. In addition, I see the combination with Zero Waste, Regionality, Fairtrade, Feed No Food and many other concepts indispensable!
What is your opinion on current organic trends and how do you see the role of organic in the world? I am looking forward to your comments!
Next article: Bio and Zero Waste – with insights from the Biofach trade fair! Where are differences and similarities? What do the two concepts rub against and why do they necessarily belong together for me?
Main picture: amazingly beautiful flower art from the Thai Fair stand
 According to these guidelines, we cannot combine disposable plastic packaging with organic products