The “good life” may be blooming, but it’s far from simple

Back in the early 1980s, when Prince Charles started using words like “sustainability” and “organic” he was viewed by some as a radical and even as the butt of jokes. But now, the global market for organic food is worth approx. €85bn (NZ$146bn), and is growing at 10.5% year on year.*

New Zealand’s own organic sector is worth an estimated $600m, a rise of $139m since 2015. Furthermore, eight out of 10 Kiwi shoppers say they buy organic products at least fortnightly.*

It seems that organics really has shed its “hippy dippy” label and moved from a niche market into the mainstream.

Even so, for growers and manufacturers, the decision to go organic is not one to be taken lightly. Richard Lees is the chief executive of Huckleberry, who opened their Browns Bay store just a few weeks ago. He’s also on the board of Organics Aotearoa NZ (OANZ), and feels it’s important that consumers understand the significance when a product is labelled “organic”.

“Gaining authentic organic accreditation is a huge investment of time and money for the producer and manufacturers,” he explains. Indeed, it takes three years for a grower to transition from fallow land to organic. This can be an arduous process, which could be inadvertently prolonged if a nonorganic neighbour sprays pesticides on a day when the wind changes direction. “I’ve seen it happen,” comments Richard. “I remember one grower lost a whole blueberry crop for this reason. He had to sell the fruit as ‘conventional’ and then had to jump through a number of hoops to ensure he could get the soil back to the requirements to meet the rules of holding organic status.”

What’s more, growing the produce is just one part of the whole supply chain process, every stage of which needs to be carefully monitored for organic compliance.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

As the popularity of organics continues to surge, “greenwashing” is something of which to be wary. Richard advises consumers, “Ask questions about traceability, and check the box and food labels to see what’s really being promised.”

He extends this further. “Buy local, buy in season, and buy ‘certified organic’ where possible.”

He observes that younger shoppers are becoming more astute with their buying decisions. “I think education in schools now is questioning how we look after ourselves and the planet. This means that 16 to 25 year olds don’t just automatically believe what they’re told. They want evidence that something is organic or, if it’s not organic, they want to know how the manufacturer is working towards taking a genuinely more sustainable approach.”

All of which results in customer-driven improvements.

“There’s still a long way to go though,” says Richard. “We’ve only just touched the surface. Our goal for Huckleberry is to be a true one-stop destination for groceries, lifestyle and wellness. We want to be package-free and waste-free – and to keep raising awareness.”

“All that time ago Prince Charles was pretty on the money, I reckon!”

Check for certifications

OANZ advise that shoppers should look out for various accreditations, including BioGro, AsureQuality and Organic Farm NZ – which are illustrated here.

(First published and permission to post by ShoreLines Magazine)

OANZ advise that shoppers should look out for various accreditations, including BioGro, AsureQuality and Organic Farm NZ –

Organics by the numbers (from OANZ’s 2018 market report)

• Exports are booming – up 42% in total to $355m o Fresh fruit and vegetables up 26% to $136m o Dairy, meat and wool up 45% to $99.5m o Wine up 13% to $46.5m

• In 2018, organic supermarket sales were $216m for the year to May, but these still only account for 2.2% of total supermarket sales. Speciality stores sold $30m worth of organic products over that period.

• 48% of Kiwi consumers say they buy organic products because they are “concerned for the environment”. • Certified organic operations are up 12% to 1,118 licensees and 1,672 certified enterprises.

• More than 50% of producers say they are interested in gaining full organic certification or transitioning towards organic. * Figures from OANZ 2018 Market Report. For more information and consumer advice, visit

(First published and permission to post by ShoreLines Magazine)