Leading the way

The sustainable food retail market in Scandinavia is an area of continuous opportunity. As well as organic thriving at Malmö’s leading double-bill trade event, the market is sharing the spotlight with other lucrative sustainable sectors including natural, free-from, and vegan – Sharna Waid reports

The Nordic countries like Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway are a fundamental area of investment for sustainable food retailers. According to United Nordic Inc AB, Scandinavia has a consumer base of 26.3 million and an estimated food value of 83.3 billion euros.

Scandinavians are typically environmentally-discerning consumers who seek high-quality products and are generally wellness orientated. According to Euromonitor international, ethical farming practices, keeping it local, and minimising packaging are currently key areas that influence purchasing decisions.

To put it simply, Scandinavians are ahead of the curve with taking care of nature and provide an important message to the rest of the world to get on board too. And luckily for them, multiple retailers and leading supermarket buyers are quickly responding to their demands by seeking out the best choice of sustainable products at trade events like Eco Life Scandinavia and the Nordic Organic Food Fair.

Eco Life Scandinavia and the Nordic Organic Food Fair – which took place at MalmöMässan, in Sweden on 13-14 November – was the meeting place for the natural, organic and eco-living industry. The co-located trade events enjoyed busy aisles from start to finish and recorded an eight per cent increase of attendees – that according to the event organisers, confirms a continued confidence in Scandinavia’s sustainable industries, and solidifies the Nordic region as ‘world champions’ in this growing sector.

Melina Viking, event manager for Eco Life Scandinavia and the Nordic Organic Food Fair says: “The 2019 show was a big hit, and we couldn’t be happier with the quality of products and visitorsacross the show floor. The natural and organic market is thriving, proven bythe increase in new buyers across Scandinavia (and beyond) who came to source the latest product innovations to satisfy the consumer demand for natural, sustainable and eco-friendly products.”

The statistics speak for themselves – notably 21 per cent of the quality buyers in attendance reported a corporate spend of over €500,000, and 13 per cent reported a spend of over €5 million. These included leading representatives from Holland & Barrett, Life, Helsekost, 7-eleven Denmark, Lidl, IKEA Food, Biomarket, Planet Organic, Midsona, Malmö Stad, Coop Denmark, Coop Sverige, Magasin du Nord, Aldi, Retail House, Naturkost, and many more.

Organic still strong in Denmark
On the events opening day, the Nordic Organic Food Fair crowned Denmark as its first ever ‘Country of the Year’ for its ongoing commitment to organic. Denmark has a higher consumption of organic than any other country in the world. Nearly 12 per cent of all grocery sales are organic and over half of Danes buy organic at least once a week. The country’s governmentally certified Ø-label has also been very important for its widespread success, explained event partners, Organic Denmark at the show.

“It’s a huge honour to be elected as ‘Country of the Year.’ For two decades, Organic Denmark has been working on expanding and developing the organic food sector as well as Danish organic farming. We try to always stay ahead of our time by responding to current and future demands of consumers and society in general. At 2019’s fair, we presented our sustainable joint stand and presented an exciting range of Danish organic innovative and highquality products to buyers and retailers,” says Helle Borup Friberg, CEO of Organic Denmark.

Trends in vegan and free-from
Tea Thaning, Food & Nutrition Analyst from Euromonitor International, shared invaluable Nordic trends in the vegan and free from sector, with a detailed overview of the evolution of meat and dairy alternatives in the show’s Keynote theatre. She and many other presentations provided a range of exclusive insights and expert views on pertinent topics facing the industry today.

Thaning highlighted that Finland has been experiencing the most growth in meat-free alternatives whilst dairy-free has increased the most in Denmark compared to the rest of the region. According to various surveys, predominant areas of environmental concerns for consumers in Scandinavia are transparency of practices, low carbon footprints and a reduction of food packaging – therefore many brands (including those exhibiting) have responded with ‘carbon natural statements’ and a range of sustainable attributes and labels in their marketing efforts.

Natural and free from preservatives came up top with consumers’ preference of diets and ingredients, and interestingly organic came in as third to last. The importance of natural to consumers therefore means the limitations of meat-free alternatives are perceptions of them being unnatural or overly processed.

Thaning concluded that sustainability continues to be a cornerstone in positioning for most dairy and meat alternatives, but expectation for questions should be considered as the category develops. And there’s a growing opportunity for plant-based, healthier, low-processed products to emerge, as customers seek more natural, meat free alternatives in their diets.

Winning innovations
With the show floor beaming with new products, from pioneering innovations to cutting-edge start-ups, the Natural & Organic Awards Scandinavia helps recognise the stand-out brands in the sector over the two days. New products from WellAware Nutrition, Raw & Wild, Sweden Eco, The Ferment Project, Arctic Vita, Apimab, Cordero Organic, Hanegal, Nurme, and Supergarden scored top marks with visitors and judges. Coop Danmark and Life Europe were named the first ‘Retailers of the Year’ for helping to educate consumers about natural and organic produce, growing the market and taking the sector from niche to mainstream.

Like many of the winning products, the environmental credentials were considered of high regard. For example, Sweden Eco’s environmental approach permeates their entire chain, from ingredients to packaging, manufacturing and end products. And the Best Sustainable Product for 2019 – Arctic Vita by Sjøbjørg of Norway – was praised for its environmentally-friendly ingredients and its innovative 100 per cent recyclable robust cardboard packaging.

Many attending exhibitors reported the show to be ‘their best yet’ by securing life-changing orders with multiple retailers and buyers across the two days. Amin Barrada, CEO from Buynature Distribution concludes: “Thanks for the best exhibition that I participated in, to date. I have collected a number of contacts, orders and thanks to your show, a potential new client in the shape of Holland and Barrett Sweden!”

It goes to show, this inspirational sector is in high demand, and companies found at Eco Life Scandinavia and the Nordic Organic Food Fair will carry on thriving, not only in the region, but on a global scale as the need to save our planet becomes more urgent.

Sharna Waid is PR Manager for Eco Life Scandinavia and the Nordic Organic Food Fair. Eco Life Scandinavia and the Nordic Organic Food Fair return to MalmöMässan on 11-12 November 2020. For more information, please visit the website on