Colruyt Group is increasing its range of local organic products through a unique partnership with organic farming enterprise De Lochting

Colruyt Group has today announced stronger links with local organic agriculture to increase its range of local organic produce. This will allow Colruyt Group to offer a high-quality, local range of products in response to rising demand for organic products in its supermarket chains. Colruyt Group has supported organic farming and custom enterprise De Lochting in Roeselare during the expensive period of transitioning to organic farming. This unique collaboration enabled De Lochting to obtain organic certification for an additional 20 hectares of agricultural land, which increased its organic area by a third. This represents a significant contribution by Colruyt Group to organic objectives in Belgium.

Sales of organic products in Colruyt Group shops grew by around 8% in 2017, significantly ahead of the market growth rate of 6%. The majority of this growth was achieved by Bio-Plant and Colruyt, although online sales and sales in the Group's convenience stores are also rising. Colruyt Group intends to consolidate these strong results by actively participating in the development of local organic agriculture.

Colruyt Group is pioneering sales of organic products, with its largest organic supermarket Bio-Planet and Boni Selection Bio house brand playing a leading role. To support the ongoing development of sales of organic products, Colruyt Group is aiming to expand the Bio-Planet supermarkets to 50 shops. Over the last year, the Boni Selection Bio range has expanded by 15% to 280 products. Colruyt Group is also investing in raising consumer awareness; to mark Organic Week on 2 June, it is launching the 'We are biotiful' national campaign in the Colruyt, Bio-Planet, Spar Colruyt Group, OKay, OKay Compact supermarkets and via Collect&Go.

"To underpin the growth of Bio-Planet, with its around 6,000 organic and eco products, and the increasing sales of our 280 Boni Selection Bio products in the Colruyt, Spar, OKay and Bio-Planet shops, we want to expand the range of local organic products. Our collaboration with De Lochting has enabled us to extend our range of home-grown organic vegetables by 20%," says Rony Neufkens, head buyer of fruit and vegetables at Colruyt Group.

High costs of transition to organic status is a significant obstacle

The expense involved in the transition from traditional to organic agriculture is a significant barrier to the growth of organic agriculture at home. Once a farmer decides to switch to organic farming, it takes between two and three years for the certificate to be awarded. During this transition period, the farmer has to use organic methods without actually getting market price for the organic products.

When they received the request from De Lochting at the start of 2016, Colruyt Group guaranteed to purchase products in transition for a higher price to bridge the challenging financial period. In recent years, Colruyt Group has purchased several types of 'vegetables in transition' from De Lochting, including kohlrabi, flat leaf parsley, red beets, winter squash and miner's lettuce. The products were available under the Boni Selection brand name – marked as being in transition – at Colruyt, OKay, OKay Compact, Spar Colruyt Group and via Collect&Go. As a result, De Lochting saw its sales via Colruyt Group double over a two-year period.

Today, the transition is practically complete and all the soil in transition has been awarded the coveted organic certification. The first fully organic vegetables bearing the European organic label will be available from Colruyt Group shops from the start of July. “Colruyt Group has been actively investing in the range of organic products in its supermarkets for more than 20 years now. The collaboration with De Lochting, which began around 15 years ago, has developed into a close partnership that enables us to sell more local organic products in our shops and to closely align the range and volume with the demand from our customers and with the seasons. The partnership benefits all the parties involved. De Lochting has greater financial security and opportunities for growth, Colruyt Group can offer an organic range with consistently high quality, and consumers are more aware of the richness and diversity of our local organic cultivation and the effort involved in making the conversion,” says Rony Neufkens.

Social employment as an additional bonus

Colruyt Group also works with De Lochting because the custom enterprise offers opportunities to people who find it difficult to access the job market. De Lochting and Colruyt Group share the same values in that area and this combination of organic farming and social employment is an additional bonus, says Dirk Lammertyn, managing director at De Lochting: "25 years ago, we started with a local vegetable garden, known locally in West Flanders as a 'lochting'. Today, we have more than 50 hectares of agricultural land and we employ 150 people. Colruyt Group is more than a customer; they are a partner who shares our values of social responsibility and fully supports the way in which we want to operate as an enterprise to promote people and nature.”

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