Arla Foods UK aims for 50% growth of organic dairy business by 2026

By Jim Cornall

- Last updated on GMT

The organic dairy category in the UK grew by 4% last year.
The organic dairy category in the UK grew by 4% last year.

Related tags Arla foods Arla Arla foods uk Milk Sustainability Organic

Farmer-owned dairy cooperative Arla Foods has set a new target to achieve more than 50% growth across its UK organic retail and foodservice business in the next five years.

This will see the size of Arla’s annual organic dairy business in the UK grow from 180 to 270m liters.

The move is being announced as the organic food category emerges as one of the strongest grocery sectors during the last 12 months, with sales growing by 9.4%, compared to 5.6% for its non-organic counterparts.

Arla’s new Organic 2.0 standards sets out the specific criteria its organic farmers must meet from January.

Arla said it will do so by taking a stance in four key areas: climate impact, soil health, biodiversity and animal welfare.

As part of the new Organic 2.0 standards, Arla’s organic farmers will now be required to convert to 100% green electricity from renewable sources, such as wind, solar, biogas and hydropower. The new standards also require organic Arla farmers achieve a 30% reduction in CO2​e emissions per kg of milk by 2028, two years before the cooperative’s wider 2030 target for conventional farms.

The UK continues to fall behind other European countries when it comes to the consumption of organic produce. In Denmark 12% of the national diet is made up of organic produce, compared to 1.2% in the UK. In France, 6.1% of the national diet is organic and in the US, 5.8% is organic.

However, the organic dairy category in the UK grew by 4% last year, and Arla has seen double-digit growth in its UK organic dairy business year-on-year for the last five years.

Arla Foods’ UK managing director, Ash Amirahmadi, said, “We believe there is a big potential for organic dairy here in the UK as more and more British consumers are turning to organic food. Just like in other parts of Europe, we believe the trend of organic dairy will continue to grow in the UK, and with our new and improved organic standards we want to make it even more attractive for British consumers to choose organic when they are shopping in the dairy aisle.

“Across the board, Arla farmers have significantly increased work on farms around biodiversity, reducing carbon emissions and improving animal welfare. Historically, Organic farmers have often been the ones to establish new practices in these areas, and with these revised standards, they are once again forging new paths.”

Arla expects to source the initial part of the growth ambition for its organic business primarily through increased production from existing organic farmers.

In addition to regular industry standards for organic milk, Arla farmers must meet a list of new Organic 2.0 criteria from January 2022, including on soil health, which includes conducting a carbon assessment of the soil to create a baseline for measuring further improvements in the soil carbon levels. The soil samples will be analyzed by a third-party laboratory to track progress on organic matter, organic carbon, total carbon, total nitrogen and carbon-to-nitrogen ratio.

Also from 2022, farmers must conduct an annual self-assessment of soil health indicators, for example, scoring assessments of soil smell, spading ease, and earthworm counts.

On biodiversity, on an annual basis farmers need to self-assess and register biodiversity activities, for example, creation of flower-rich pollinator habitats, letting sections of the land grow naturally, planting hedgerows and allowing them to flower; and implement a minimum of 7 out of 33 biodiversity conservation measures, which are included in a “best practice” catalogue for Arla farmers.

On climate, farmers must participate in Arla’s climate check program (to track and reduce farm emissions), accelerate Arla’s 30% CO2​e reduction target from 2030 to 2028, and convert to 100% green electricity from renewable energy sources (wind, solar, biogas, hydropower).

The minimum number of days that cows are on grass needs to increase from 120 to 150, and all animals above six months of age must have access to cow brushes – with a minimum requirement of one brush per 50 animals or one brush per robotic milking machine where relevant.

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