Creative cooperation with retailers key to Danish organic success

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Creative cooperation between Denmark’s leading food retailers and the organic sector has played a crucial role in the country’s organic success story. 

That was one of the key take-homes in a talk delivered by Organic Denmark’s Mads Sejersen Vinther at this month’s Soil Association Certification Trade Conference. 

Setting the scene, Sejersen Vinther explained that around 13% of cultivated land in Denmark is currently under organic systems and that organic’s share of the total food and drink market also stands at around 13%. Before the global shocks of recent years and the cost of living crisis, the latter figure had been 16%. Indications are that market is turning, and organic share is on the up. 

Central to the success of Danish organics, said Sejersen Vinther, has been the close cooperation of the Danish authorities, Organic Denmark, organic producers and companies, and the retail sector. A widely recognised national organic mark also strengthens public trust in organic, he said. 

Retail accounts for 85% of the 15.5 billion DKK organic market in Denmark (with food service taking 12% and farm shops 3% shares respectively). The country’s discounters are major players with, with Netto, SuperBrugsen and Rema1000 commanding a 19, 17 and 18% share respectively.

None of these retailers are in organics for altruistic reason, Sejersen Vinther pointed out. “Money talks with organics as in any other retail category. These retailers innovate in organics to sell more and to make bigger profits, and they are good at it.”

Danish supermarkets and retailers are particularly proactive in communicating to consumers the benefits of organic, and why it usually costs a little more. 

Sejersen Vinther (pictured below) cited as an example a Organic Denmark graphic that was positioned on the floor in the meat aisle of a major Danish supermarket. Almost unignorable, this oversized graphic strikingly compares the amount of space given to pigs in conventional, free range and organic farming systems. It’s an idea that would be virtually unthinkable in a UK supermarket setting. But if any supermarket executives happen to stumble across this article, it’s worth pointing out that the initiative resulted in a 20% uplift in sales of organic pork in store.

“Organic food is very visible in Danish supermarkets, and that is partly helped by state backed promotions and in-store information,” added Sejersen Vinther. 

Danish food retailers place a high value on organic consumers because they know they spend more than average on food. And by offering wide choice, both in terms of categories and pricing, they can make organic accessible to a wider audience (Netto’s own slogan is ‘organic, affordable to all’). For example, the same retailer that will offer basic organic oats at £1.30 per kilo will also sell you a luxury, ready-made porridge pot that works out at about £25 per kilo. 

When Organic Denmark’s marketing team wanted to find a way to illustrate a consumer’s organic journey, they created an ‘organic stairway’. This shows that most people start by buying products such as organic milk, eggs and vegetables, before progressing on to meat, flour and pasta, and then moving up to coffee, tea and chocolate. But as Sejersen Vinther pointed out, this progression is more escalator than stair-like. “Once people step onto it, they tend to keep on travelling upwards”. 

The full conference can viewed on-demand here 

Maim image: Mads Sejersen Vinther from Organic Denmark speaking at this month’s Organic 

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