The capital of Spain will host one of the largest organic food events in Europe, the Organic Food Iberia, to be held this September 8th and 9th at IFEMA Madrid, bringing together leaders of the sustainable food and plant-based sector.
Vegconomist en español recently spoke to Carsten Holm, managing director of Diversified Business Communications UK, which has developed this major trade event.
What is Organic Food Iberia, what is the origin and what is the reason for the event?
Launched in June 2019, Organic Food Iberia is the first dedicated trade event in Spain covering the rapidly growing organic food sector. Developed by Diversified Communications, a leading international organiser of highly specialised trade shows, in partnership with IFEMA, the event is based on the same model as the internationally renowned Natural & Organic Products Europe, which was launched over 20 years ago. In addition to London and Spain, we also organise similar events in Scandinavia and Australia, so it’s a sector we understand well, and which we are very passionate about.
When the first event was launched, we realised that the world would need to become more sustainable, and that we all have a responsibility towards ensuring the welfare of animals, the sustainability of our farmland, our precious soil, and the very future of our planet. It is therefore very similar to the vegetarian movement, and of course, a large proportion of our exhibitors are promoting organic vegan products, under the common theme of sustainable living.
Since the first pioneering event was launched in London over 20 years ago, the sector has gone from being highly niche, a little hippy, and little understood by most consumers, to becoming considered as one of the most important aspects of international sustainability policy.
The growth in consumption in recent years had been phenomenal, with the value of the organic market in Spain increasing by nearly 10% last year, according to industry association Ecovalia, and predictions are that the growth will be even higher this year. As if to underline the role organic now plays, to give an indication of how important organic has become, under the Green Deal’s Farm to Fork strategy, the European Commission has committed to a target of at least 25% of agricultural land to be dedicated to organic farming by 2030.
So Organic Food Iberia has come at a really important and exciting time for the industry, which was recognised by the Coordinated Institute of Governance and Applied Economics, when it listed OFI as one of the 20 most influential trade shows in Spain.
What is the difference between this event and other events related to the food sector?
Unlike other trade shows, companies can only exhibit products which are certified by Ecovalia or Intereco, or similar international certification bodies. So buyers can be confident that all products are genuinely organic and that they have been produced to the high standards developed by the international organic movement, ensuring better animal welfare, crop rotation, the use of only natural fertilisers and without dangerous pesticides.
But it is more than just about products. It’s about a set of values, it’s about celebrating and promoting a better way, and it’s about bringing a community of like-minded people, who have a real passion for change, together for two days of networking, debate, business and celebration.
How has the health crisis affected the performance of Organic Food Iberia and how will the dynamics of the event change this year?
There is no doubt that the COVID pandemic has focused consumers’ perception and interest in what they eat, the environment we live in, and the world we are leaving for our children, so there has been a big increase in both the awareness and the consumption of organic. Equally, we are seeing an accelerated level of support from Governments around the world. So, whilst the past year 18 months have been very difficult for people around the world, they have actually helped the organic cause, and made many people realise that it is up to them, as consumers, to help drive the change.
How do you think Organic Food Iberia will evolve in the next years?
It can only get bigger and become more important. Although Spain is the largest producer of organic in Europe, consumption has so far been below that seen in other countries. However, we believe that is set to change, and with strong support from the Spanish Government, we believe Spain is set to become one of the leading nations in the world in the move towards a more organic future. I equally believe that Organic Food Iberia has the makings of becoming one of the most influential international events for this sector.
Do you have a special message for those who are thinking of attending the event this September?
We feel the most appropriate theme this year is ‘A Celebration of Organic’, as it will be the first time the industry has come together since the pandemic. So, we will be working hard on making it special, and to make it the largest, most important celebration for the organic business and producing community, and we want everyone to be involved.
So, if you are involved in the business of organic, vegan and sustainability, then this really is the must-attend event, and of course, the more people from the sector who attend, the better it will become for everyone.