Business & markets

Key research questions

  • How do we create a fairer food supply chain?
  • What are the market opportunities for the organic sector? How can they be fully exploited by supply chain members?
  • How can an integrated set of metrics be developed linking economic, social and environmental sustainability for the agricultural sector, so that informed decisions can be made by market players and policy makers? 

The importance of business and markets

Sustainable food systems and markets are inherently linked. Practitioners of the food sector are more likely to adopt sustainable and innovative practices if they are financially viable and acceptable from a socio-economic perspective. Market dynamics are a key driver of the success and continued development of the organic sector.

ORC’s research in this area is committed to identifying market opportunities for the organic food sector considering the needs and views of farmers and other market players, and to inform practitioners accordingly. We aim to lead collaboration between public and private actors to establish a comprehensive knowledge base to support market and policy decisions, in the short term, and to encourage sustainable consumption patterns in the long term.

Key elements of the theme

Organic markets, European (and British) Organic Regulation, sustainable food supply chains


The socio-economic team of ORC has been involved in a number of national and international projects, which can be grouped as follows: 

  • Projects on the collection of organic market data, funded by the UK government and the European Commission
  • Evaluation studies for the DG AGRI of the European Commission, including on added value in organic food supply chains and on the EU Organic Regulation.
  • Research projects for the organic as well as non-organic sector, mainly funded by Defra and the European Commission


Current projects


AGROMIX aims to deliver participatory research to drive the transition to a resilient and efficient land use in Europe. It focuses on practical agroecological solutions for farm and land management and related value chains. For ORC we are delivering the project as a partnership between the business and markets and agroforestry teams:
  • AGROMIX makes use of a network of 83 sites with Mixed Farming (MF), AgroForestry (AF) or value chain stakeholder networks, which are used to measure, design, model, test and improve these systems
  • ORC is contributing data from one of the six core research sites that form part of the key project objective to quantify biophysical indicators of agroecosystem resilience at the plot scale. The project will make use of data from the fully replicated agroforestry trial at Elm Farm which combines short rotation coppice with silage and beef production.

Evaluating the different approaches for improving UK organic trade statistics

The aim of this project is to improve organic trade statistics in the UK. Improving organic trade data collection is particularly important and timely given the global growth in the organic market, which is likely to continue as consumer demand for organic food has been increasing over the last years. Also, better international trade data within the organic sector would help businesses and policymakers make informed decisions, which is especially critical in light of the UK exit from the EU.

This study will at first assess the costs and benefits associated with different data collection approaches, e.g. surveys of organic importers and exporters, using existing customs data to extract organics data, incorporating a unique identifier into international trade statistics, e.g. as Denmark have done with SITC codes. Based on this analysis, the most suitable approach identified will be implemented in a pilot study for selected agri-food goods.

LIVESEED – Boosting organic seed and plant breeding across Europe

Funder: by the European Commission Horizon 2020 and by the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation. Project website ORC role: work-package leader. Project lead: IFOAM EU, FiBL-CH

Role of ORC: the business & markets team is leading the socio-economic work-package of the project, which aims to (a) explore the attitudes of all the stakeholders of the organic sector towards organic seed and organic breeding, and (b) assess the impact of potential measures to improve the market and the regulatory arrangements for organic seed and breeding.

Relevant Publications

  • Mandolesi S, Naspetti S, Arsenos G, Caramelle-Holtz E, Latvala T, Martin-Collado D, Orsini S, Ozturk E, Zanoli, R. (2020). Motivations and Barriers for Sheep and Goat Meat Consumption in Europe: A Means–End Chain Study. Animals, 10(6), 1105. DOI: 10.3390/ani10061105
  • Smith LG, Orsini S, Mullender S, Egan J, Leake A, Woolford A, Jacobs S, Kerr R, Bowles L, Watson C, Pearce B, Lampkin N, Padel S (2019) Reviewing Opportunities, Barriers and Constraints for Organic Management Techniques to Improve Sustainability of Conventional Farming. Report to Defra on project OF03101
  • Orsini S, Padel S, Gambelli D, Lernoud J, Sanders J, Solfanelli F, Stolze M, Willer H, Zanoli R (2019). Beyond ‘mainstream’ and ‘alternative’ in organic food supply chains: empirical examples of added value distribution from eight European countries. British Food Journal, 122(3), 798-812. DOI: 10.1108/BFJ-07-2019-0508
  • Orsini S (2017) Distribution of the added value of the organic food chain ORC Bulletin No.123.
  • Sanders J, Gambelli D, Lernoud J, Orsini S, Padel S, Stolze M, Willer H, Zanoli R (2016) Distribution of the added value of the organic food chain. Thünen Institute of Farm Economics. Braunschweig.
  • Home R, Gerrard C, Hempel C, Lostak M, Vieweger A, Husak J, Stolze M, Hamm U, Padel, S, Willer H, Vairo D, Zanoli R. (2017). The quality of organic market data: providing data that is both fit for use and convenient. Organic Agriculture, 7(2), 141-152. DOI: 10.1007/s13165-016-0147-5
  • Zanoli R, Vairo D, Solfanelli F, Padel S, Gerrard C, Lampkin, N (eds.) (2014). Manual and Code of Practice for the initiation and maintenance of good organic market data collection and publication procedures. UVP Marche, Ancona.

ORC Researchers and staff

These ORC team members are currently involved in business and market projects:
Organic Business and Markets Researcher
Market and Business Researcher