Starting June 1, food retailers on both sides of the Atlantic will find a greater number of choices in their organic playbook. That’s the day the European Union will begin recognizing the National Organic Program as being equivalent to the EU Organic Program. We’ll do the same on our end.
“Equivalence with the EU will be a historic game changer,” said Christine Bushway, executive director of the Organic Trade Association, after the signing ceremony in Europe earlier this month.
The announcement follows by just a few weeks an agreement that brings the U.S. and Canada closer to full equivalency.
Some benefits of the U.S./EU pact will be seen and felt immediately. There will be many more certified organic products available to American and European retailers via their import agents and distributors. There are other, less obvious benefits as well, but they are just as important to the organic mission.
For example, there are probably more than a few manufacturers that are certified in their home countries but either didn’t want to, or couldn’t afford to, shell out the funds to receive the additional organic seal. With that hurdle removed, the path is clear for them to start marketing their products abroad.
This should also serve as an incentive for those companies that might have been thinking about getting into organics, but decided to hold back for whatever reason. Now they see that the market potential is twice as promising. How can you resist?
The agreement also benefits the industry as a whole, since both programs are pledging to exchange information and data regarding issues like animal welfare and GMO contamination.
The opening of trade comes at an ideal time. The annual Organic Product Study from TABS Group found a big jump in the number of American consumers reporting that they purchased organic products: From 39.8% in January 2011 to 41.8% in January 2012. Total sales of organic products rose an estimated 15% to 20%, researchers concluded.
Thanks to the agreement, retailers can look forward to more products — and more shoppers looking for them. The TABS study found that 62% of consumers make their organic purchases at “mainstream” retail stores, while 38% buy their organics at natural food or specialty stores.
This is the year we can say organic took a key step towards the ultimate goal: One World, One Standard.