Organic brews rise to demand

Related tags Organic food

Industry sees 'green' products treble in the past yearBrewers are cashing in on the soaring demand for organic food and drink - on a big scale....

Industry sees 'green' products treble in the past year

Brewers are cashing in on the soaring demand for organic food and drink - on a big scale. Regional companies already in the marketplace, including Brakspear's, Fuller's and Shepherd Neame, are being joined by dozens of microbrewers.

Peter Haydon, secretary of the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) estimates that the number of organic ales on the market has trebled in the past year.

"They have simply mushroomed and I would guess there are now up to 50 different brands out there," he said.

"SIBA held a competition for organic beers last November, and even in the few months since then, we have seen a rise of some 150 per cent."

The growth of organic beers is in pace with the rest of organic produce.

According to the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), which represents manufacturers, sales in the UK have increased by 278 per cent in the last five years and now tops £800million a year.

It predicts that, by 2006, organic food and drink will account for five per cent of the total grocery market, and it has brought together an Organic Food Manufacturers Liaison Group to set standards and drive the sector forward further.

But, although SIBA supplied the beers for the seminar that launched the group last week, Mr Haydon sounded a note of caution against brewers throwing too much investment into organic beers.

"While we are craft brewers, and this is certainly a sector we should exploit, I have my reservations about it because the market is so much driven by the consumer perception that organic beer tastes better - and that isn't necessarily true because brewers only have a limited amount of organic raw materials to work with.

Due to a lack of good quality organic ingredients being produced in England, the vast majority of brewers are forced to import malt from the continent and hops from New Zealand.

"I wonder whether this reality will catch up with us. Organic brewers need to be careful," added Mr Hayden.

Before a product can be declared organic, its ingredients must be a approved by the Soil Association and producers can have difficulty is securing a supply.

Colin Jones, technical manager of cider maker Westons & Sons, told the seminar about his own company's efforts to find organic apples which led to it forming a partnership with 10 local orchards.

Named alcoholic drink of 1998 by the Soil Association, sales of Westons organic cider are currently rising by 15 per cent a year and it has also developed organic soft drinks and an organic cider spritzer.

"Going organic has to be a long term decision," said Mr Jones. "We are now working on an alcoholic pear-based organic drink and even assuming we can, it won't be ready for market for another two years because organic perry pears don't yet exist."

Related topics Beer

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