Natexpo trade show in France promises to offer all things organic

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Natexpo, the international trade show for organic products, is set to open its doors for the 16th year this month.

From 23-24 September, an estimated 600 exhibitors from all over the world with an organic catering offering will gather in Lyon, France, to present new sourcing and innovations in this sector.

Organized by Natexbio, the French Federation of the Organic Sector, with support of its member associations Synadis Bio, Synadiet and Synabio, the expo has grown exponentially over the years, increasing by 40 per cent between 2015 and 2017. 

The organic focus has become more prominent, especially in France. According to a report by Agence Bio, France is the second largest consumer market in Europe for organic products after Germany, with more than 21 organic farms created every day in the country. The report also indicates that the organic sector is developing its reach powerfully in France, with organic becoming an integral part of everyday life. A reported 90 per cent of French people consume organic produce at least occasionally. Topping the list are fruits and vegetables, followed by dairy, eggs, dry groceries, drinks, meat and bread.

Natexpo has become an industry reference point for the organic sector. At this year’s edition, its organizers have developed new content areas, bringing in more experts and presenting more subjects of discussion to the table, with a focus on innovation. The areas include a New Products Gallery, Cosmetic Innovations Forum, Organic Ingredients Forum and Dietary Supplements Forum. The event has two new additions: Retail Experts, a space where founders of organic stores can talk with retail experts, and Regional Focus, where regional organic foods will be featured.  

Exhibition sections will include:

  • Organic food: coined as healthy food that respects the environment.
  • Ingredients and raw materials: showcasing the ingredients and raw materials that go into the manufacture of food products, cosmetics and dietary supplements.
  • The organic incubator: a space dedicated to organic SMEs. 
  • Le Lab: A space for startups to present new ideas and innovations. 20 startups are expected to highlight their innovative approaches and products this year.

About 50 topics are on the expo's packed agenda, including:

  • Organic ingredients for innovation: Fermentation makes a strong comeback
  • Changes in organic regulations in 2021
  • Purchasing behavior of consumers of organic and organic cosmetics in specialist organic stores
  • The organic market tomorrow: what's up for mass retail and for organic stores
  • Organic ingredients: in search of more advanced solutions to innovate in organic

Produce Business UK chatted with Valerie Lemant, the events manager for Natexpo, to get an inside look at the formation of the conference, as well as to understand trends in organic, and how this affects the world of produce. 

How did the conference start?

The story began in 1957, with an event organized on behalf of the French Federation for Dietary Supplements. Then in 1989, the actual expo, Dietexpo, was created, which was the first B2B international fair to take place in France. In 2002, in order to meet with the market expectations, the decision was made to create five sectors at Dietexpo: dietary supplements, organic food, organic cosmetics, ingredients and ecologic products. This led to the creation of Natexpo.

When it first began, what was the basic idea around Natexpo?

We were interested in helping the organic market grow and get structured. The awareness of consumers increased in the '70s and since then, it has just continued. It appeared essential for the Federation to provide the market with a place to discuss and to organize the business as well as to decide on the rules.

How has the expo evolved?

Each year, the show has reinforced its role as a key meeting place for all those in organic and has strongly contributed to the growth of the organic business. The market itself has increased by 22 percent. Today, the show is the No. 1 international event taking place in France for organic professionals. That is the reason why we made the decision to make it annual since 2017; Natexpo takes place in Paris in odd years and in Lyon in even years. 

Produce Business UK is focused on produce and commodities and trends around it. We are really interested in how your agenda investigates and then presents these trends in the market. 

The organic sector is run by innovations, whether it's for products, raw materials, packaging, or innovative consumption behaviours. This is where it all begins.

What is the process?

We provide buyers with the New Products Gallery, where [attendees] can discover the latest innovations – about 200 each year. 

The Natexpo Awards honour the best products put on the market the past 12 months. This is also a great tool to identify big trends.

We also identify societal shifts, such as zero waste, circular economy, local consumption; this makes us develop new offers at the show, among them The Lab – a brand new area dedicated to startups that provide B2B2C sectors with innovative solutions and products.  

What do you see as some of the organic produce trends in 2018?

Let’s talk about the four megatrends:

  • The clean revolution: The “clean” trend (healthy, safe) is a powerful megatrend that is noticeable in all sectors and is likely to spread to all products. The primary ambition of this movement towards healthy and “clean” is safety, for oneself, one’s family and friends, followed by the preservation of the environment.
  • Higher consumer awareness: There have never been so many people searching for true meaning. Responsible consumption isn’t just a trend anymore. Organic holds a promise of health and meaning, important for active consumers. But brands now have to go beyond labelling or organic certification to prove their own individual commitment.
  • Vegan, the new standard in gastronomy: Animal well-being is one of the leading issues for consumers today. The intolerable images of animal cruelty and environmental consequences have prompted immediate reactions to go vegan, from food to cosmetics and fashion.
  • A thirst for new sensations: Our lives are becoming ever more virtual, and a lot of us need to get a better grip on reality and sensations. We do not buy only to buy but to experience something. Brands innovating capacities are challenged.

In parallel, we observe health buzzes:

  • Moringa (also known as the horseradish tree), which is the new curcuma: Topping the wellness charts at the moment, moringa is a real wellness winner. It comes in various forms, to delight every detox addict. 
  • Exotic nuts: No need to introduce the coconut, unmissable in food and cosmetics. But more unusual nuts are emerging on superfoods shelves: Brazil nut, tiger nut, they are part of the most innovative products of the year.
  • BIY (Blend it yourself): The DIY trend (do it yourself) is stronger than ever and now expands to food [and includes] healthy juices.
  • Raw and fermented, the new 'slow': Following the “raw food” movement, fermentation is the new trendy process: vitamins and minerals are cooked at a low temperature to keep all their potential. 

In the Organic Ingredients Forum of the expo, which is part of the ingredients and raw materials sector, it is said that experts, producers and processors will discuss leading issues. What would you say are some of these leading issues related to produce?

Regarding produce, it will be about innovations brought by new processes, such as fermentation or gluten-free. The Ingredients Forum will also clarify such subjects as Nagoya protocol and organic piracy; the best practices to import; CO2 extracts; funding projects; certification rules, etc.

What would you say are some of the challenges facing the organic produce industry?

We face a huge consumer demand in innovative and in high-quality products. Consumers insist on an uncompromising behaviour of the industrials to preserve the environment and their health. The organic industry remains the main guarantor of the preservation of those values.

Do you see changes in climate playing a big role in this?

More and more, industrials source locally in order to reduce their environmental footprint – and to answer the consumers' values. I would say this is the way they try not to over-affect the climate.

What are your thoughts on the role of agri-tech and its role in solving challenges in the organic industry? 

Innovation in the interest of agriculture also means to integrate the strong values of organic agriculture in order to contribute to improve all human beings living standards. Agri-tech must pursue two main objectives: to improve sustainable development and to make the planet able to feed nine billion human beings from 2025 onwards.

The website indicates that Natexpo is an eco-responsible trade fair. What does that entail?

Natexpo stands up for environmental friendliness and the reduction of ecological footprint, both fundamental values for us. We are committed to assure an eco-friendly and zero-waste environment, from planning through project implementation. These includes an energy-efficient exhibition hall and eco-friendly stand fittings. In 2017, we worked with the Red Cross and their teams walked the floor on the last afternoon of the show to ask exhibitors for their unconsumed products. In total, 1,2 ton of products were collected.

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