An organic food craze is emerging among China’s urbanites as food safety scandals spur the younger generation toward alternative ways to buy fresh produce and meat.
So far, organic foods’ penetration into China appears small, accounting for 1.01 percent of total food consumption, but that’s nearly triple 2007’s 0.36 percent, according to data from organic trade fair Biofach.
A series of high-profile food scandals over the past seven years has been a primary catalyst for growth in the organic food market. Biofach expects the segment’s share of China’s overall food market to hit 2 percent this year.
China was ranked as one of the world’s worst safety-violation offenders by American food consulting firm Food Sentry this year. In 2013, 3,000 pig carcasses were seen floating in Shanghai’s Huangpu river, one of the city’s key sources of drinking water. A few months later, reports that a Beijing crime ring was selling rat and fox meat as lamb sparked international outrage, resulting in the arrest of more than 900 people.
The trouble continued in 2014, with the Chinese affiliate of U.S. meat supplier OSI Group accused of using expired meat. OSI caters to major fast-food chains such as McDonald’s and Yum Group’s KFC operating on the mainland. Wal-Mart was also dragged into the limelight this year following revelations that its donkey meat product contained fox meat. Most recently, Subway also came under scrutiny after Chinese media reported in late December that workers at a Beijing franchise changed expiry dates on meat and vegetables to extend their use.
The rise of organic food is also expected to draw support from government officials prioritizing nutrition and environment to spur domestic consumption in a country where focus has traditionally always been on industrial growth.