Biofach 2008

This article first appeared in Natural & Organic Business magazine, April/May 2008

Simon Wright
This years Biofach opening ceremony got off to a slow start when Keynote Speaker Gerard Depadieu’s train was delayed. The opening address from IFOAM President Gerald A. Herrmann also struck an odd note. He seemed to be saying “We were right when we went organic 30 years ago and the world laughed: now the world is coming to us all we have to do is carry on with what we’re doing and the global organic sector will carry on growing by 20% every year”.

Such naïve sentiments were thankfully absent from the trade show itself, with suits increasingly replacing Hungarian peasant costume. There was innovation to be found if you looked hard. ICAM had the world’s first natural dark cocoa powder produced without alkalization. Angius Organics were promoting candied tomato and crystallised carrots – truly a unique taste! I was impressed with the beautifully-presented Vosges beribboned chocolate gift box, available in Selfridges and containing bars such as Woolloomooloo (macademias and hemp), Red Fire (chipotle chillies), Barcelona Bar (hickory smoked almonds) and Naga (curry powder).

Of the UK companies that exhibited, Community showed their new range of Fairtrade non-foods such as footballs and shoes, Alara launched their organic gluten free muesli with Goji and Yacon, Clearspring had their new packaging on display (such as the Snack Organic Tamari Roasted Sicilian Almonds, totally yummy), King Soba launched Organic Mighty Miso Soups and Organic Gluten Free Ramen Noodles and The Organic Spirits Company launched the worlds first Organic and Fairtrade Golden Rum. Companies making their debut in Germany included Green & Black’s and Duchy Originals, where high prices did not put people off from the shortbread, marmalade and lemon curd.

Top gossip in the Hotel Maritim bar top was the ever increasing cost of organic ingredients with rises of 40 – 100% being regularly quoted. Scarcity is also a problem, one trader telling of a container of organic Chinese sunflower kernels sold for domestic bio-fuel production. Other topics of conversation included the rumour that the new compulsory EU Bio organic logo was so close to the Aldi organic logo that lawyers are now involved, that everyone is going to have to bake with organic yeast from January 2009 and how difficult it is to find ingredients that are both organic and Fairtrade, although Jamie at URENbio is working hard on it. Organic fraud was much discussed , with meetings taking place in Holland and Switzerland between key traders and certification bodies to draft a new code of conduct.

For another view of Biofach I talked to Al Overton, non-foods buyer at Planet Organic and a first-time visitor. “Other than the whole ‘oh my god it’s huge’ thing, I was very impressed, mainly by the breadth of products available and the obvious size of the organic food industry in Europe, which is heartening for anyone from the UK.  The show on the whole was well laid out and spacious, the atmosphere was fairly relaxed and the majority of the exhibitors were very friendly, patient and open-minded.” Al spent time at the sister show Vivaness which features organic beauty products, household products and textiles and here he was less impressed. “There was little I had not already seen, and it did not seem nearly as international as the rest of the show.  Coming from the UK I also found the lack of supplements a surprise”.

Also memorable was the Rolling Stones-themed rock cafe Brown Sugar and Vapiano, a very cool cashless Italian restaurant and bar with its own credit cards, well worth a visit next time you’re in Nuremburg. Which for me will be Biofach 2009, February 19 -22. See you there!