Switzerland's Coop retail group has long been one of that country's main proponents of organic and ethical food products, but what it has achieved thus far is clearly just a drop in the ocean compared to what it hopes to do over the next 10 years.
At a symposium entitled 'Food and drink in 2013', Coop's chairman Hansueli Loosli set out his vision for the decade to come, and the company is clearly aiming high. In 2013, the Coop Naturaplan organic food range will account for at least 20 per cent of the company's total food sales, having already passed the SF2 billion (€1.3bn) mark in 2010.
Loosli used the opportunity of the symposium - which was organised to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Naturaplan scheme - to present the Fonds Coop Naturaplan, a programme which will run alongside the group's four main organic brands (Coop Naturaplan, Coop Naturaline, Coop Oecoplan and Max Havelaar) and which will lay the foundations for the ambitious growth targets announced by the co-operative retail group.
Coop has pledged to commit SF10 million each year until 2012 to the Fonds Coop Naturaplan - in addition to its existing commitments to organic production - which will then be invested in a variety of projects supporting organic and sustainable production.
The Fonds Coop Naturaplan will also actively promote the concept of sustainable development in Switzerland, invest in the development of new organic products under the four main brands, and communicate the benefits of organic products to consumers.
Each year, a limited number of organic projects will be actively supported by the Fonds, with this year's chosen schemes being those developed by the Parc National Suisse, Bio Suisse, the Organic Agriculture Research Institute (IRAB) and Pro Specie Rara.
If Coop has big plans for its organic food programme, its optimism is not without justification. Sales of Coop Naturaplan products last year reached SF1.01 billion, and there are currently more than 1,500 products sold under the four distinct brands. Some 1,100 of these also carry the seal of approval from Bio Suisse, the Swiss organic producers' association.
Coop already accounts for half of all the organic food sold in Switzerland, according to Bio Suisse's figures.
The company has also entered the 'green' energy market, selling coupons which can be exchanged for ecologically-friendly electricity under the Coop Oecoplan scheme. Over half the retail price of these coupons is reinvested by Coop in schemes promoting non-polluting electricity generation, mainly through solar or wind power, biofuels or water.
The coupons, which are issued by the company Ratia Energie, Coop's partner in the scheme, guarantee that the quantity of electricity ordered is generated by ecologically-friendly methods before being added to the Swiss national grid.