Italy’s Organic Food Sales More than Doubled in the Past Decade

The value of organic agricultural exports also rose by 181 percent in the same period. Wine led the way, but extra virgin olive oil was not far behind.
Oct. 17, 2022
Paolo DeAndreis

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The grow­ing demand for organic food prod­ucts is fuel­ing Italian organic agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion.

In the last 10 years, organic food sales in Italy have grown by 133 per­cent. Similarly, exports of Italian organic prod­ucts have risen by 181 per­cent in value in the same period.

Eighty-one per­cent of these exports are food, with the remain­ing por­tion com­pris­ing cos­met­ics and other agri­cul­tural-related health prod­ucts.

See Also:European Awards Champion Organic Agriculture

According to the lat­est data pub­lished by Nomisma, a con­sul­tancy, the export value of organic agri­cul­tural prod­ucts rose from €1.2 bil­lion in 2012 to an expected €3.4 bil­lion in 2022. The value of organic food exports in 2022 will exceed €2.7 bil­lion, a 16 per­cent year-on-year increase.

Today, organic exports rep­re­sent 6 per­cent of the over­all value of Italian agri­food exports. According to Nomisma, Italy is the sec­ond largest organic food exporter behind the United States, whose exports exceeded €2.98 bil­lion in 2021.

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Wine is by far the most appre­ci­ated organic food prod­uct sold by Italian com­pa­nies on the inter­na­tional mar­ket, rep­re­sent­ing 19 per­cent of all organic export sales. By com­par­i­son, total wine sales account for 13 per­cent of Italian agri­cul­tural exports by value.

Nomisma esti­mated that Italian organic food exports to grow in the next three years, mainly in Germany (+53 per­cent), north­ern European coun­tries (+32 per­cent) and the United States (+25 per­cent).

In inter­na­tional and national mar­kets, inter­est in organic extra vir­gin olive oil is also grow­ing. In a recent report, the Institute of Services for the Agricultural and Food Market (Ismea) said organic extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­tion reached 46,000 tons in 2019, val­ued at approx­i­mately €200 mil­lion.

Ismea said organic extra vir­gin olive oil sales had been fueled by ris­ing pub­lic demand and the higher prices pro­duc­ers can charge for organic oils, tra­di­tion­ally between €0.20 and €0.40 more.

Outside of Italy, inter­est in organic extra vir­gin olive oil has also grown recently. Organic olive oils won about one in three awards at the 2022 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, the world’s largest olive oil qual­ity con­test.

In its report, Nomisma said organic food con­sump­tion is dri­ven mainly by house­hold con­sump­tion – as opposed to restau­rant or hos­pi­tal­ity con­sump­tion – grow­ing 4 per­cent between 2020 and 2021 to reach almost €3.9 bil­lion.

In 2021, 89 per­cent of Italian fam­i­lies bought at least one organic prod­uct. In 2012, about 50 per­cent of fam­i­lies did the same. Today, 54 per­cent of Italian fam­i­lies con­sume organic food prod­ucts at least once per week.

Quality and health ben­e­fits are the most rel­e­vant dri­vers of organic food pur­chases. Thirty-nine per­cent of con­sumers inter­viewed by Nomisma also cited sus­tain­abil­ity and respect for bio­di­ver­sity as influ­enc­ing their deci­sions. Twenty-eight per­cent of con­sumers ask for organic food con­tain­ers to be 100 per­cent recy­clable.

According to Nomisma, large retail­ers make up 56 per­cent of all organic food sales to fam­i­lies and restau­rants, with a total value of €2.2 bil­lion in 2021.

Still, the report high­lights an 8‑percent growth between 2020 and 2021 for sales by spe­cial­ized organic food retail­ers, which now account for 26 per­cent of the mar­ket. Five per­cent growth also is expected for other organic food sales chan­nels, such as phar­ma­cies, fairs and local mar­kets.



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