In just a year, sales of organic products to Danish catering operations, canteens and public institution kitchens went up 46%, while the number of organic canteens has almost tripled in 2012. And organic produce is now becoming as common a sight in Danish canteens as it is in supermarket shopping trolleys. Organic sales to Danish catering operations totalled DKK 743 million in 2011, up DKK 234 million from 2010.

In 2012, 130 canteens run by Danish private companies now use 30-60% organic produce in their kitchens and the total number of organic canteens has grown from 70 to 200 – almost a three-fold increase. Now every day a total of 500,000 organic meals from public institution kitchens are served in this Nordic nation.

“Many private businesses are embracing sustainability, and having a green profile and an organic canteen is part of their branding. In recent years, public institution canteens have increasingly started using organic produce, and this is a trend which is set to continue,” says Rikke Thorøe Grønning, foodservice coordinator at Organic Denmark.

The increase of organic food at a number of restaurants, cafés and canteens followed with the introduction of an organic label for large scale kitchens in September 2009. Altogether 100 large-scale-kitchens - among them 19 restaurants – have the organic label. Copenhagen and other local authorities have shown that introducing healthier and organic meals can be done within the existing budgets by avoiding food waste, buying seasonal produce, cooking everything from scratch and using more vegetables and less meat. Today, 70% of the food served by the City of Copenhagen is organic, and is done on the same budget.

Figures for sales of organic produce to catering operations are based on data from the 11 largest foodservice wholesalers in Denmark and Organic Denmark's estimate for the remaining market. The survey was carried out by Organic Denmark and the producers' association and subsidized by the EU and the Danish Ministry for Food's Rural Development Program.

At BioFach 2012 held in Nuremberg in February, Organic Denmark export manager Klaus Bentzen said the Danish government's target was for organic produce to be used in an average of 60% of public institution meals by 2020. “The foodservice sector is going well and sales are up 15-20% in value and showing a 6%-plus rise in supermarkets,” he said. “The government is presenting a new ‘Green’ plan for five years that has the support of the organic sector to develop projects and increase organic consumption and exports.”

Mr Bentzen said Danish organic exports were showing strong growth of 15% over 12 months and have more than doubled on the last five years to a value of $125 million euros. The Danish government has earmarked a total of DKK 20 million to promote organic exports over the next two years.

Both in Denmark and in other countries, sales of organic food are growing. Danish retailers saw a 7% increase in organic sales in 2011 and organic retail sales totaled DKK 5.5 billion, equating to an organic market share of 7.6%.