Consumers in Switzerland and Europe have high expectations of the quality and production methods of foods such as spices. Certification is important, but so is the assurance that organic products contain no traces of pesticides. Boris Rafalski, member of the SIPPO Advisory Board, talks about the success factors for organically produced products.
Boris Rafalski is a member of the SIPPO Advisory Board and, as co-founder and managing partner of SoulSpice, a premium organic spice brand, has visited various production sites with the SIPPO Vietnam team.
He sees great opportunities in the market segment for top-quality organic spices in Switzerland and Europe. Consumers are very quality-conscious, more than ever. They want to know how their food is produced, where it comes from and what agricultural practices are used.
When spices are grown using regenerative agricultural methods, as Boris Rafalski is currently experiencing in Vietnam, good stories can be told about high quality that touch and convince consumers.
The importance of certification
The opportunities in Europe lie in high-quality but well-certified products. In the organic markets, European organic certification is of course crucial. Without them the European markets cannot be accessed. But consumers are increasingly asking for additional certifications, such as “Naturland” or “Demeter”, which are proving to be good additional selling points in the marketing of organic spices.
An important issue is the contamination of organic products with pesticides. The rules in the organic market are very strict. In his company, for example, Boris Rafalski has every incoming batch tested for pesticides by an external laboratory; for him (and for other quality-oriented importers in the Swiss and European markets), certification alone is not enough. “We want to be as sure as possible that there are no pesticide residues in the products we process. This is undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges in the sector,” he says.
In an agricultural environment where conventional farming with pesticides and organic farming coexist, there is always a risk of cross-contamination. This is of course tragic for organic farmers, who risk losing the organic status of their products. Avoiding contamination and maintaining the natural quality of organically produced products is therefore a major challenge.
According to his findings, the undisturbed production of high-quality organic products can be achieved, for example, by creating “organic landscapes” – agricultural zones where only organic farming methods are used and no pesticides are used.
Direct contact with producers
Another important point for importers in Switzerland and Europe is direct contact: Importers want to work with trade organisations such as, in the case of Vietnam, the Vietnam Pepper and Spice Association (VPSA) and advisory institutions such as the local SIPPO team, because they have already established direct and close contact with the farmers themselves.