5 Reasons to Look West

5 Reasons to Look West

With export accounting for around 20% of all food and drink value in the UK, DIT figures show the UK to be lagging behind many other Eurozone countries on food and drink export. Our own figures at Soil Association Certification suggest that in organic, that figure is even lower, with only 9% of organic value currently exported. So, it's no surprise that there’s a clear desire on the part of the government and trade organisations to get more organic businesses exporting. After all, we have even more ceiling in our industry. Reporting export activity with over 40 countries, some of the leading players in our industry show the range of option open to would be exporters, which begs the question "where should we focus our support?".

In 2017, our Export Survey took the temperature of the organic industry, asking organic food and drink businesses where they most wanted to go. Despite the distance and potential expense, it seems that a significant number see the US as a prime target - there are the cultural similarities, we have long history of cooperation (that special relationship!) and we speak the same language most of the time - but what makes this organic market in particular the target of so much organic export ambition? Should we focus our efforts at the US or continue to look east?

The answer is almost certainly extremely complex; after all, global organic trade is complex, but there are many compelling reasons take a harder look at the US. Here are five examples from our list of great reasons that you might want to consider when penning those export plans:

  • Impressive market performance: According to Monique Marez, the International Trade Director at the US Organic Trade Association:The United States organic market is booming with the largest dollar value increase in consumer sales on record last year.” As the world’s largest organic market, the U.S. organic industry is now estimated to now be worth in excess of $47 billion and relies heavily on trade to meet consumer demand. Yet, overall market share for organic is still less than 10%, which according to the OTA, leaves plenty of room for growth.
  • Protection of IP: Counterfeit goods currently make up 2.5% of all global trade, and according to a 2016 report by the OECD, trade is booming, with nearly half a trillion dollars in fake goods sold each year. Whether through patents, trademarks, copyrights or other forms of IPR, the United States is the world’s leader in protecting intellectual property rights (IPR), making the US one of safest countries to operate in.
  • Strong interest in heritage and tradition: From insect flour to prebiotic-everything and antibiotic-free, the US so often leads the way on natural and organic trends. Not only does the UK deliver on innovation, but the UK organic industry is additionally blessed with many brands offering quality through history and tradition. In fact, some of our brands are actually older than the US as a nation, so when it comes to heritage, we’re tough to beat.
  • A stepping stone to other markets: The US is a major international trading hub, providing businesses with access to global supply chains not directly accessible from the UK. This can lead to onward export opportunities, helping UK businesses reach additional international markets
  • Growing opportunity for tough standards: At a time when the US market is experiencing significant deregulation, the issue of whether something really is as organic as it should be has the potential to become an increasing concern for US shoppers. Having truly independent certification to one of the world’s toughest standards, Soil Association Certification licensees are well equipped to confidently assure US consumers of their organic credentials.