By the time Andy Wright displayed his organic barbecue sauces at the big Anuga Food Show in Germany this fall, he’d already participated in two other international organic promotion events coordinated by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) during the year, and this novice in the export market had learned quite a bit. Wright put his new knowledge to the test in Germany, and he left Anuga with almost 50 solid business leads.
“This wouldn’t have happened without OTA,” said Wright, Owner of the Minnesota-based Acme Organics and maker of the organic Triple Crown BBQ sauce. “OTA not only gave us a platform to show our products to an international audience, but it also connected us to the right people, the decision makers, and that was huge.”
From those leads in Anuga, Wright is now in the process of closing on three deals to sell his barbecue sauce in Sweden, Switzerland and Australia. Wright notes that the initial contracts aren’t enormous, but that “for a small company, a little bit can create a lot.”
A little bit can create a lot. A solid investment can yield significant results. For more than 15 years in its role as an official cooperator in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Market Access Program (MAP), OTA has been investing in the promotion of American organic agricultural products in global markets and connecting buyers and sellers in order to reap a good return for organic and create new organic customers around the world.
This hard work has not gone unnoticed by USDA. This week the agency awarded $889,393 to OTA in MAP funds for export promotion activities in 2016, an 11 percent increase from the association’s 2015 funding. Plans are well underway at OTA headquarters on how to leverage that money to enable the biggest return on investment for American organic stakeholders.
“We thank USDA for recognizing the tremendous value and opportunities that our export promotion programs are creating for the organic industry, and for enabling us through its generous funding to continue this work,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of OTA. “Our analysis shows that for every dollar we spent in promotion activities this year, over $36 in projected organic sales were created. These new sales not only help organic grow, but they create jobs, boost incomes, and contribute in a positive way to our communities.”
Returns for organic, and beyond
A case in point: Jeff and Peggy Sutton founded To Your Health Sprouted Flour Co. in rural Alabama. They have participated in OTA’s export activities for three years now, and Jeff said as a direct result of that involvement, they are beginning to sell their products in the UK, South Korea, Mexico and Japan, and are getting business inquiries every day from all over the world. As demand and sales for their sprouted organic grains and flours have grown, their business has evolved from two part-time employees less than a decade ago to a projected payroll of 45 by the end of next year.
“We’re building a new 26,000-square-foot facility, and this will allow us to quintuple our production capacity. We now employ 30 folks, but we’ll be pushing 45 employees within the next year,” said Sutton. “Our involvement with OTA’s export activities has been a tremendous asset in helping us get started in the export market and creating these opportunities for growth.”
OTA’s export promotion programs in 2015 spanned three continents and included strategic participation and showcasing of American organic products in the biggest food shows in Europe and Asia, sponsoring an Organic Day in Japan, exploring potential opportunities in the Middle East, representing the U.S. organic industry at the World’s Fair in Milan, connecting foreign buyers with U.S. organic suppliers at major trade shows in America, and commissioning a landmark study on organic trade to provide organic stakeholders with the most up-to-date information on the global market.
In 2016, OTA will build on its activities to bring more information about market conditions and opportunities to new and first-time organic exporters, to display and introduce organic products to buyers, and to help first-time exporters connect with qualified global buyers.
- In Germany, OTA will lead a contingent of 14 American organic companies at the BioFach World Organic Trade Fair, the world’s leading organic food show. OTA will showcase U.S. organic in its pavilion, and will lead educational seminars on organic.
- In South Korea, OTA will return to the huge Seoul Hotel and Food show, and will also conduct an in-country promotion to increase consumer awareness for U.S. organic products.
- In Taiwan and then in Switzerland, OTA will lead trade missions to showcase American organic to the local markets.
- In Paris, OTA will participate in SIAL, the world’s largest food innovation exhibition, which attracts some 6,500 exhibitors from 104 countries.
- In Japan, OTA will showcase American organic at the first ever Organic Lifestyle Forum. The forum will include dozens of educational sessions on organic and highlight market opportunities in Asia’s most important organic market.
- In the U.S., OTA will host international buyers at Natural Products Export West to connect with U.S. organic producers, and will also lead an organic tour of East Coast organic farms and operations for key media from the EU, Japan and the Middle East to provide a hands-on organic learning experience.
- Worldwide, OTA will conduct a thorough evaluation of its export activities to ensure that participants are benefitting as much as possible from the activities.
“It is not easy to get into the export market,” said Monique Marez, Associate Director of International Trade for OTA. “Our mission is to help open the doors and remove some of the barriers for American organic businesses, and to educate international buyers and consumers on the integrity, diversity and quality of U.S. organic products. There are huge opportunities for the U.S. organic sector throughout the world, and we are invested in helping the industry build relationships and brand awareness so they can take advantage of these opportunities.”
OTA’s membership represents about 85 percent of U.S. organic exports. The market promotion activities administered by OTA are open to the entire organic industry, not just OTA members. OTA provides further assistance to U.S. organic exporters with its online U.S. Organic Export Directory.