Marketing the future

Anna Louise Batchelor - 26 March 2014

Download the organic market report 2014The release of the Soil Association's Organic Market Report for 2014 recorded good news across the board, the best being a 2.8% increase in overall organic sales. After four years of decline this growth has given us all a chance heave a sigh of relief and draw new breath for the challenges ahead; GM, Seed Directives and eight more years of austerity!

Since the report was published I have been commentating, advising and shaking a few trees on its findings. What has been interesting (to me at least!) is seeing the independent food retail sector leading the way with 6.9% growth and the 11% increase in veg box sales. When you compare this to the 1.2% growth reported by the multiples it begs the question; what are the independents doing right?

Marketing and new product development is the short answer. A survey conducted by the Soil Association (cited in the report) reveals that independent retailers saw new product development (37%) and marketing (34%) as the biggest factors in growing organic sales. This is illustrated in the veg box sector by Abel & Cole with a 22% sales increase attributed to increased marketing and Riverford’s 9.6% growth ascribed to new product development.

Working in the independent sector I see marketing work because it is targeted. What the independents do well is; knowing and understanding their customer base. They also engage with and develop the organic sector. You only need look at Bristol’s Better Food Company and its role in The Community Farm CSA and The Story as an example of how to build a sector.

Whilst the multiples have seen a modest increase in organic sales, it’s the supermarkets that invested in developing organic lines that have been rewarded. Sainsbury’s saw a 7% increase in sales of its own-label organic products. Waitrose now has eight of its ten best-selling organic lines from the Duchy Originals and Waitrose Organic ranges.

It’s clear then from the report that developing organic product lines and putting them in the core of a business model (rather than the bolt-on approach taken by many multiples) leads to sales growth. When it comes to marketing and the future of organic goods the message to retailers from the Organic Market Report 2014 could not be clearer:

"If you make organic products available and promote them well, consumers are ready to respond."

Anna Louise Batchelor is an environmental scientist who has worked in academia, government and industry. For the last six years she has been part of Reading's True Food Co-op.

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L Thompson
03 April 2014 10:12

I'm glad to see the Soil Association recognising independent shops and veg box schemes. We need to support local food and farmers.

Ann Davis
01 April 2014 19:52

This is good news. I think many independents also take pride in really getting to know their producers and products. Each party can relate and react to each other quickly and positively.

Nicola Tipler
28 March 2014 15:51

Heartening news!

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