Estonia: Biomarket stores – successful with German brands
by Redaktion (comments: 0)
For years, the demand for organic food and natural cosmetics in Estonia has been growing. There are around 40 shops all over Estonia and in the capital Tallinn several stores supply the needs of the approximately 400,000 inhabitants. Six shops belong to the chain Biomarket, that over the last ten years has developed its concept and is today one of the leading organic wholesalers and retailers in Estonia. The company’s offer consists mainly of German specialist brands. With the professional way they present themselves and with their good marketing, the stores are a pleasant surprise. Karin Heinze went to have a look at the stores. There are other players too who are heavily involved in shaping the organic market in Estonia.
(Picture: The Biomarket’s store in the downtown Solaris shopping centre)
In September 2013, Estonia’s biggest organic retailer, Biomarket , celebrated its tenth anniversary. Acting out of conviction, the founders of the company Priit Mikelsaar and his partner Ms.Ave Oit began to import Dr.Hauschka cosmetics and Japanese incense sticks. When they opened their first store in 2004, other organic stores were already operating, but Biomarket expanded its product range continuously and developed over the years into the principal importer of Dr. Hauschka cosmetics for the Baltic countries and into the biggest organic wholesaler and retailer in Estonia, with a turnover of €2.5m -3m.
(Picture: Priit Mikelsaar founded the organic company Biomarket 10 years ago)
In its capacity as a wholesaler and importer, Biomarket supplies Dr. Hauschka products to pharmacies, cosmetics shops and spas. Similarly, organic food is imported not only for their own stores but, according to Ekoconnect country report Estland, also for other specialist organic stores and the conventional chains Prisma and Stockmann. The mission of the founders is to make healthy food and natural cosmetics available to consumers.Their slogan is: “Biomarket – Nii terve ja rõõmus” - “Biomarket – so healthy and happy”.
(Picture: Special offers each month make it easier for customers to buy what they want)
The stores – six in all (5 in Tallinn, 1 in Tartu) – have a retail area of 120 m² - 160 m² and are located exclusively in shopping centres. In October, the store in Tallinn Kaubamaja (140 m2) has moved to bigger premises measuring 240 m², where it offers an extended product range and for the first time a café serving snacks, sandwiches, smoothies and coffee/tea to take away. When you go into a Biomarket store, you almost feel you are in a German wholefood shop. On clearly arranged shelves you see a wide selection of German brands that include: Allos, Antersdorfer, Arche Naturprodukte, Aries, Bioenergie, Dr.Hauschka, Lebensbaum, Lubs, Pinkus Müller, Natur Compagnie, Naturata, Ökovital, Primavera, Rapunzel, Sonett and Vivani.
(Picture: Biomarket - professionally presented specialist stores with a wide offer of brand manufacturers)
(Pictures: entrance, shelves and check-out)
Agnes Männiste, who is responsible for publicity at Biomarket, explains that there are too less certified Estonian wholefood brands, but the range is growing. Many of the products that carry the Estonian organic logo are also listed in the product range. These are principally basic products like cereals and cereal products, pasta, bars, jams, dried fruit and juices made from the abundant berry fruit found in Estonia. About 600 of the 3,500 to 4,000 products in their assortment are produced in Estonia itself. Also a number of the cosmetics and drugstore articles are “Made in Estonia”, although many are imported from Germany and other European countries. (Picture: Agnes Männiste showing the new ice cream brand made in Estonia)
She says that getting continuously fresh food is a problem. The fruit and vegetable department, that at the moment fits into a few baskets, is soon to be expanded. They have already set up arrangements with a fruit and vegetable wholesaler and Biomarket is confident that the demand is now stable enough for them to offer fresh food. In the bakery goods segment they have moved a stage further. Last year, Mikelsaar and his friend Reet Rum founded an organic bakery Pagar Võtaks! and in Biomarket stores you now find an expanding range of bread and both fresh and long-life bakery goods. (Picture: the cosmetic-departments are elagant and the staff is well-trained)
A new idea pursued by Biomarket is ice cream. The La Muu brand was only launched by Priit Mikelsaar and Rasmus Rask at the end of 2012, but over the summer there has already been strong demand. In the chilled cabinets there is a selection of milk and dairy products, eggs, meat and soya products. Surprisingly big is the stock of wine and beer, gluten-free detergents and cleaners and also non-food articles that round off the offer. (Picture: A special feature of the stores is a wide selection of wine and beer)
The Biomarket store (164 m²) in the Solaris shopping centre in downtown Tallinn only opened in April 2013 (see start picture and cosmetics). It features a generously proportioned, high-end cosmetics department in the basement, where the focus is on Dr.Hauschka cosmetics. A wide glass frontage and attractively decorated tables entice the customers into the store. The furnishing and fittings all express high value, and the atmosphere is congenial. As Agnes Männiste explains, more and more of the younger generation are captivated by the organic lifestyle, and young families are choosing organic. But baking your own bread has also become very popular with the older generation of “mothers” who have always been used to doing things for themselves. Yoga, vegetarian and vegan nutrition are also in fashion. (Picture: Shopping centre Ü near the airport)
According to FiBL Switzerland, in 2011 organic turnover in Estonia – 1.3 million inhabitants - came to around €12m. The conventional retail food trade, the specialist organic trade and the internet together accounted for €7.08m, with direct marketing being responsible for €4.92m. A number of specialist organic retailers launched their businesses at the beginning of 2000. The Estland-Länderreport issued by Ekoconnect lists three more companies that are operating as importers (European organic brands), wholesalers and retailers. (Picture: Dr.Hauschka counter in one of the Biomarket stores)
Ökosahver operates two stores and an online shop and, in its role as a wholesaler, it supplies around 30 fairly small organic shops, schools, kindergartens and restaurants. Austan Loodust (Respect for Nature) stocks around 3,500 organic articles, of which about 150 are regional, runs two stores called Parimpood and a café, and supplies wholesale to around 10 organic stores and the supermarkets Prisma and Sahver. Looduspere (Natural Family) is a family business with its headquarters in Tallinn. It runs five stores in various towns in Estonia and also sells via its online shop. The company supplies the supermarket chains Selver, Prisma and Stockmann (44 supermarkets and hypermarkets), pharmacies and about 30 wholefood stores in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. It imports goods from Germany, Great Britain, Austria, Finland and Turkey (Pictures: By Inka Sachse/Ekoconnect, from the left: Organic Counter at Luonakeskus shopping center, organic shelf in one oft the Rimi shops and ÖkoPood in Tallinn)
Further information: Ekoconnect Länderreport (German)