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The power of organic labelling in the meat market

28 May 2019

The fashion for organic food has gone beyond the bounds of specialised food stores and highly-informed consumers, to find a spot in everyone's shopping trolleys and capture two per cent of total spending according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fishing and Food (Map). Spain is the world’s tenth most avid consumer of organic food, with a market worth around €2,000 million which is showing double digit growth, according to the same source. In the case of meat, 35% of consumers say that they would purchase even more if products had organic or animal welfare labels, according to a recent study by the Fecic association. What’s more, between 58% and 62% of those surveyed by Aecoc say that they buy fresh organic meat and deli products at least once a month.

In this context, the meat industry is taking steps to implement an ambitious livestock industry strategy to transform to organic production in the coming years. There are 6,300 organic beef, pork, lamb, goat and poultry producers in Spain, which account for almost 1.2 million animals and a weight of somewhat more than 26,000 tonnes. In addition there are 454 certified industrial meat and meat product processing companies, 15% more than in 2016, made up of 231 slaughterhouses and butchers, 112 sausage and cured meat manufacturers and 62 fresh meat suppliers.

In terms of consumption, the appearance of organic meat products in the aisles as part of a modern distribution strategy seeks to capture consumers interested in health and sustainability who have doubled in the last three years. To be precise, for the accumulated TAM to January 2019, organic deli products have grown 14.2% in volume compared to a general market growth of 0.2%, with a turnover of 555 tonnes. In value, sales of organic deli products increased by 23% to more than €7.5 million. Although this may seem a small market niche, it should be remembered that six in ten consumers say that they have started buying organic food in the last five years, according to the latest “Aecoc Shopperview”.  So there’s still a long way to go.

New players in the organic meat market

What are organic meats and meat products? To be able to sell meat with an organic label, the animal must have been reared on facilities with no insecticide, pesticides or chemical treatment, and they must be fed on pastures and cereals certified as such, free of transgenics and antibiotics. Organic hams, sausages and deli meats must be made with meat from certified organic producers, with no fillers, chemicals or synthetic ingredients. So far, organic meat production in Spain is limited to small, specialised manufacturers, with companies like Casa Boix, Ecoriera, Jamones Ecológicos de Jabugo (‘Dehesa de Maladua’), El Enebral (‘Bioardales’) and Embutidos Gil as the main flagships.

These have been joined by larger operators, attracted by healthy growth and the rising numbers of consumers opting for organic food. The first to carve out the route was Blancafort in 2010 with its ‘Bio-Organic’ line, one of the most comprehensive ranges of deli products - salchichón and chorizo sausage and cured ham - and ham, turkey breast and bacon - all from organic livestock. In 2018, Casademont included a whole organic boiled ham in its product range produced with organic farming methods to join its chorizo and fuet sausage. As the company explained, “this product has been introduced to meet nascent market demand that is constantly growing”. That same year saw the launch of the El Zagal sobrasada (spicy meat pâté) range and a new collection of organic Iberian pork products by Señorio de Montanera, “an almost non-existent category in Spain”, according to the company.

One of the most recent to jump on the bandwagon is Embutidos La Hoguera, which launched its ‘Bio’ range in 2019, consisting of Duroc cured ham (sliced, off and on the bone), sarta chorizo sausage (200 g) and loin (in pieces and chunks). “We believe that the meat sector’s future will be natural and environmentally sustainable”, says the meat company. Likewise, the Rioja group Palacio Alimentación has launched a range of organic chorizo sausages, marketed under the new ‘Naysa (Natural and Healthy)’ umbrella brand. In the meantime, the Térvalis group and Airesano Foods are developing an organic meat and meat product project in collaboration with Noel Alimentaria. The latter already has an organic family within its ‘Kubdu’ range of meat-based snacks made with organic beef and chicken, aimed at specialised retailers.

More developments in the meat sector

In the fresh segment, the offer is more extensive, particularly in beef, where organic production increased by 4.6% in 2017, four times the general average increase, with more than 16,000 tonnes and 3,539 farms. This is where El Encinar de la Humienta has an important role, and a commitment to produce an organic range with its production system that will enable it to supply channels with sliced products and prepared meat products made with organic beef such as ground meat and hamburgers. Los Norteños has a line of butchered meat, retailed at Alcampo, a chain that sells organic products from Cárnicas Hicor. When it comes to retailers, Lidl is supplied by Catalan producer Ecológica dels Pirineus for its range of beef with the ‘Bio Organic’ label, consisting of ground and sliced meat and beef burgers. The same supplier also works with Bonpreu. In October, it was La Sirena, the specialised frozen food chain, which launched eight new organic beef products: boned entrecôte, churrasco, beef burgers, steak, sliced beef, beef and mixed meatballs and black pudding.

In pork, only 139 of more than 86,000 registered farms in Spain are certified as organic, producing a mere 750 tonnes. Among meat product manufacturers, Faccsa is studying the launch of a new range of organic products, a position already achieved by Hermanos Morán (Hermosa), with the 2018 launch of a range of organic pork, consisting of a dozen products marketed under the ‘Porkganic’ label. The Coren cooperative works with three species, beef, pork and chicken, and is expected to sell more than 3.3 Mk of organic meat in 2018. The Galician company has been producing organic chicken for more than 16 years, and added pork and beef in 2017. Generally speaking, the poultry sector, more than going organic, is leaning towards presenting “slow growth” chickens, which take longer to fatten, around 56 days as opposed to 42 for a conventional broiler, which receive a 100% plant-based diet, no antibiotics and are raised free range as much as possible.