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  • 10 Feb 2012 6:58 PM | Elsa Fairbanks (Administrator)

    By: Mark Godfrey | 9 February 2012

    A sign that a branded food market is maturing is the growth of niches and demand for certified-organic products in China is starting to rise. However, as Mark Godfrey reports from Beijing and the south-eastern city of Xiamen, in China's fledgling organic sector, there are no common labelling requirements, leading to consumer confusion over what is truly organic, which could hinder development in the long term.

    Organic food is taking hold in China but it is, relatively speaking, early days. The market is forecast to have grown by 25% in China last year but, if Euromonitor's estimate is accurate, sales would have reached CNY329m - or just over US$52m.

    The Euromonitor data shows that packaged food accounts for the bulk of sales: a projected CNY252m in 2011, although, perhaps unsurprisingly in a country synonymous with the stuff, tea companies make up the majority of the top five organic companies in China.

    Based on the value of retail sales in 2010, the key players are a local company, Qingdao Changshou Foods, followed by US natural and organic food group Hain Celestial and Huangshan Guangming Tea Industrial Co. The fourth and fifth placed firms are also tea makers.

    Euromonitor data is collected on "food and beverages that are certified organic by an approved certification body". It adds: "For organic products to be included under Euromonitor definitions, the organic aspect needs to form part of positioning/marketing of the product." However, the rise of organic foods in the country hides the fact that, in China, no common certification exists and producers without formal organic certification carry 'green' labels, leaving consumers confused over what products are organic. And, with the price premium for organic food, the uncertainty could hold back the development of the sector.

    Products carrying internationally recognised organic logos are rare in China. There are 23 organisations in China authorised to certify organic products, with the China Organic Food Certification Centre (COFCC), the best known. Another high-profile mark is the Chinese Organic Food logo issued by the Organic Food Ratification Committee, run by the State Environmental Protection Administration.

    While all the organic labels in China are governed by the China National Organic Product Standard (CNOPS), which came into force in 2005, Chinese organic certification bodies are allowed to inspect and certify against their own private organic standards as long as certified products adhere to the national regulation. "Thus organic products might be labelled with the national Organic Products Seal and the logo of the private certification body," explains Martin Weinschenk-Foerster, a director of international business at Germany-based certifier Ceres, which has clients in China.

    Bureaucratic territorialism, a common trait among Chinese ministries, is also partly to blame for the multiplicity of logos. The so-called Green Food standard that preceded the CNPOS is still in use in China and the state-controlled China Green Food Development Center (CGFDC) oversees two Green Food standards outside CNOPS: ‘Green Food A’ (which allows some use of synthetic agricultural chemicals) and ‘Green Food AA’, which is more stringent, allowing fewer chemicals. As a result, explains Weinschenk-Foerster, the ‘AA’ label is less popular with agricultural producers who prefer to use an A standard, which still attracts 'organic' consumers. However, he adds: "Since both Green Food standards are allowing chemicals they have nothing or only little to do with organic standards… many people might get confused about the difference between 'Organic' and 'Green Food' in China."

    The country requires both its national organic logo and the logo of the third-party certification body to be displayed on packaging. In a filing to the International Task Force on Harmonisation and Equivalence in Organic Agriculture (ITF), Liu Zenhui of the China Product Certification Centre has explained how Chinese standards are based on IFOAM [International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements] and EU organic criteria in order to "promote the international organic trade". While the China Organic Food Development & Certification Centre (OFDC) is accredited by IFOAM and is allowed to certify, only two other bodies have been accredited by the China National Accreditation Board for Certifiers (CNAB): the independent WIT Assessment and the semi-state China Organic Food Certification Centre (COFCC). The latter leads the field in terms of market share.

    Despite the number of organics labels in China, securing a quality one legitimately is not easy securing an organic label in China is not easy - where the government heavily subsidises fertiliser and pesticides. Wonder Milk, a brand operated by the US-invested local Huaxia Dairies, has opted not to seek organic certification, explains marketing manager Karen McBride. "Given China's farming it would be very hard to guarantee that nowhere along the feed chain the cow feed and grass has been produced according to strict organic standards," McBride says. 

    She adds it is too easy for the certification process to be corrupted or faked. "It’s too easy to put some cling film or a sticker on a product." On its packaging, Wonder Milk is said to be produced to 'organic principles'.

    Given recent milk safety scandals in China, local dairies clearly want to be seen as clean and green. Yet Chinese milk producers seeking international organic certification have not been successful. Last year, Ceres turned down a Chinese dairy project that applied for certification. It would not elaborate on names or specifics.

    Despite, or perhaps because of the number of different labels, visits to supermarkets in Beijing and Xiamen showed retail staff could not quickly point out organic foods. However, staff questioned in Tesco and Carrefour outlets did, however, concur that customers had begun to seek organic produce, particularly around key gift-giving times such as Chinese New Year. There was also a consensus that organic products cost 30% more.

    Despite the growth seen in the sector, demand for organic goods has not been helped by food inflation, which ran at 5% a year up to 2011, dampening demand for more expensive products.

    A straw poll of young professionals in five cities showed consumption depends on wages, age and overseas experience. One executive on a CNY13,500 salary from a multinational human resources firm in Beijing said she liked organic food because of worsening pollution in China and because she had purchased organic during her university days in the US. A 25-year-old female earning CNY2,500-a-month from a sales job in Zhengzhou said she does not trust organic certifications. Based in the coal-mining hub of Taiyuan, a 28-year-old male salesman earning CNY3,500-a-month said while willing to try organic products he was not aware where to buy them. And a 25-year-old in office worker in Wuhan on CNY8,000 said while she appreciated the health benefits of organic foods, they are "too expensive".

    Indeed food prices and safe supply chains are bigger priorities for major retailers in China than expanding organic offerings. Asked about the prospects for organics, a senior European retailer told just-food he is more focused on extending the firm’s own-brand lines in China to exploit twin local concerns over food safety and price inflation. Organic food lines are a secondary concern. "Right now we’re concentrating on getting a more free spending kind of consumer into our stores, the one we have right now is pretty price conscious," the executive said.

    Other companies are seeking organic sales without bothering to certify their goods. Xiamen Jiaqi Organic Food Co uses a large ‘Green King’ label on it packaging. Yet the firm, which packages vegetables, fruit and seafood, does not have recognised certifications – the Green King logo was devised in-house, a salesperson contacted at the firm says.

    Similarly, a producer of eggs, Hubei Shendi Agricultural Science and Trade Co., Ltd, a firm with battery-style operations themes itself an ‘Enterprise Engaged in Eco-Agriculture’. It also boasts a ‘Green Food’ certificate, which is not a formal organic certification.

    And, also having it both ways, China National Cereals Oils & Foodstuffs (COFCO), a state-controlled conglomerate with ambitions to be a Chinese version of Cargill, sells a ‘Lohas’ range of foods with green-tinged marketing. An ‘I Love Lohas’ marketing campaign ‘yue huo’ (beautiful life) rolled out in local print media pledges: "Our raw materials come from good ecological protection area, and through advanced processing techniques try to keep the nutritional content of raw material itself."

    The sales data shows China's organic sector is growing but the lack of common rules on labelling could confuse consumers, holding back the development of the sector

  • 10 Feb 2012 10:29 AM | Sandra Sullivan (Administrator)

    The Association of European Coeliac Societies has adopted Coeliac UK’s gluten-free symbol as it looks to standardise gluten-free labelling across Europe.

    Click here to read more

  • 27 Jan 2012 9:00 AM | Sandra Sullivan (Administrator)
    Defra, UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), and industry announced Driving Export Growth in the Farming, Food and Drink Sector: a plan of action.

    This Action Plan will drive export growth in the farming, food and drink sector by:

    Working to open markets and remove trade barriers

    Helping build a business mindset of exporting as a key route to growth

    Encouraging more SMEs to explore overseas opportunities and supporting those who already export do more

    Shifting the focus of the sector towards the opportunities of emerging economies where there is the greatest future growth potential.

    The Action Plan sets out how government and industry will work together to achieve these objectives. In short, it will do this by lobbying for the removal of trade barriers that restrict access to new markets, ensure that the right information and support is available to help businesses succeed overseas, simplify food export paperwork for companies, and strategically champion the UK’s reputation for outstanding farming, food and drink.

    Click here to download full report.

  • 11 Jan 2012 7:20 PM | Elsa Fairbanks (Administrator)
    Jeronimo Martins said a strong performance in Poland boosted sales in 2011

    Jeronimo Martins said a strong performance in Poland boosted sales in 2011

    Portugal-based retailer Jeronimo Martins has announced a 13% rise in 2011 preliminary sales, thanks largely to strong growth in its Polish operations.

    Sales reached EUR9.8bn (US$12.5bn), EUR5.8bn of which came from the company's Polish discount chain Biedronka, a 20% rise year-on-year. Poland now represents 59% of Jernoimo Martins' sales, the retailer said.

    "The performance of sales in 2011 reveals the suitability and soundness of the value propositions of the group's various formats, in a context in which the expansion of Biedronka, as a driver of the group's growth and profitability, continues to be the main strategic priority," the company said yesterday (10 January).

    It added that much of the sales growth was driven by Biedronka's 239 new stores over the period, bringing the total to 1,873.

    Pingo Doce, Recheio and Madeira, Jeronimo Martins' Portuguese food retail banners, had sales growth of 4.2%, 4.9% and 14.4% respectively.

    Following the announcement, Jeronimo Martins' share price closed up 2.3% at EUR13.34, before dropping back today (11 January) to EUR12.78 at 11.14 GMT.


    Source -

  • 07 Dec 2011 6:20 PM | Elsa Fairbanks (Administrator)

    India's ruling Congress Party has confirmed that plans to allow more foreign investment in the country's retail sector have been suspended.

    Speaking in the Indian parliament, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee gave official confirmation that the reforms, which have led to fierce opposition among parts of India's political elite, were not going to be forced through.

    He said: "The decision to permit 51% FDI in retail trade is suspended until a consensus is developed through consultation among various stakeholders."

    It emerged over the weekend that the Indian government was planning to put its reforms, announced two weeks ago, on hold. 

    On Saturday (3 December), Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of the state of West Bengal and leader of the All India Trinamool Congress party, the second-largest party in India's ruling coalition, said the government had suspended a decision on the reforms "until and unless there is a consensus of all parties on the matter". Today, however, was the first official confirmation that the reforms were being suspended.

    Mukherjee said the Indian government would now consult all stakeholders, including the chief ministers of all states and political parties, before going ahead with the policy.

    Under the plans, announced 24 November, foreign companies would be able to own 51% of multi-brand retail stores. The Indian government claimed the reforms would create jobs and modernise the country's supply chain. As the ruling was made by the cabinet, it did not to go to a parliamentary vote.

    Opponents of greater foreign investment, including key government allies like Banerjee, were furious about the move and began a series of protests that caused parliamentary proceedings to grind to a halt. They claim giving retailers like Wal-Mart Stores, Tesco and Carrefour greater access to Indian's retail market would cripple local businesses.

    Sudip Bandhopadhyay, leader of the Trinamool Congress, which strongly opposed the FDI reforms, told the Indo-Asian News Service after the meeting: "It has been accepted. Whatever you may want to call it, holdback or rollback, it is not being implemented."

    Some opposition politicians said it signalled the death knell of the proposals.

    Source -

  • 29 Nov 2011 6:08 PM | Elsa Fairbanks (Administrator)

    Full text of Statement:

    Food and drink – The Government to launch a food and drink export action plan in January 2012, including development of a cross-Government strategy on removing animal health trade barriers in key markets such as China and Russia; regional road-shows for prospective exporters; a food and drink business ambassador; and steps to reduce blockages to UK food exports. In addition a summit will be held in March 2012 to boost innovation in small agri-food businesses.

  • 28 Nov 2011 4:46 PM | Elsa Fairbanks (Administrator)

    Multinational retailers beware. For all the headlines last week, the passage into India's fledgling and potentially lucrative retail sector is likely to be anything but smooth.

    News that the Indian government plans to relax restrictions on foreign investment in the country's retail industry would have initially been greeted warmly in boardrooms at the likes of Wal-Mart, Carrefour and Tesco.

    New Delhi's decision to, for example, allow overseas retailers to take a majority stake in a supermarket chain in India does, on the face of it, present a very appealing opportunity for Western retailers keen to tap into the country's growing and ever-more wealthy middle class.

    However, the devil is in the detail. A retailer that wants to set up a supermarket chain in India will have to meet certain conditions, including a stipulation that it must invest US$100m - and half of that must be spent on infrastructure. Companies will also be forced to buy 30% of produce from small and medium enterprises and will only be able to establish stores in cities with a population of one million people or more.

    That said, the most critical consideration for would-be investors is the fact that the Indian government's reforms have been met with fierce opposition in some parts of the country. Individual states in India's federal political system will be allowed to ignore the new regulations if they wish - and there has already been defiant statements from some local politicians that overseas retailers will not be allowed entry to their markets. Opposition leader Uma Bharti has reportedly even threatened to torch any Walmart store that may open in the country.

    It, therefore, seems there is a long way to go before we see a network of Tesco supermarkets in India. And, from the public reaction so far - a spokesperson from Carrefour last week pointed out that "it's still an ongoing process" - Western retailers are fully aware of the potential obstacles that lie ahead.

    India's planned retail reform was the big news story in a week dominated by developments at a number of global retailers. One retailer that already has a presence in India through its wholesale network - Metro Group - was also in the spotlight with the appointment of its new CEO. Finance director Olaf Koch will take the top job by next October and, after the uncertainty at the top of the retailer in recent months, investors will be pleased that a sense of normality is set to to return to the German retail giant. However, there are a number of challenges that lie ahead for Koch, including a need to revitalise sales at the company and successfully sell department store chain Kaufhof.
  • 25 Oct 2011 10:30 AM | Sandra Sullivan (Administrator)
    Book your place now at the FDEA Network Forum event to take place on 15 December 2011 at the London Landmark Hotel.  A one day event for food and drink exporters with keynote speech from DEFRA Minister Lord Taylor.

    Download the event flyer here
    or go the events page for more details and to book online.

    A one day event for the UK food and drink exporting community with presentations from leading exporters, market updates on China, food and drink trends worldwide, unrivalled networking with fellow exporters, a superb all British banquet lunch and more.

  • 25 Oct 2011 9:00 AM | Sandra Sullivan (Administrator)
    FDEA is running a Taste of Britain showcase at the FHC Shanghai exhibition in November with local acitivity including a media and trade reception, store tours, market briefing and a stand at this show for imported products.
    More details see

    Companies joining this comprehensive visit and exhibit programme are:

    Burts Biscuits & Cakes
    The Celt Experience
    Delamere Dairy
    EBLEX & BPEX (English meat)
    Llanllyr Source Water
    Macleans Highland Bakery
    Premier Foods
    Somerdale International
    Ramsden International
    Suma Wholefoods
    Typhoo Tea
    Tyrrells Potato Chips
    Wensleydale Dairy Products

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