Soil Association Licensees Meet the Ocado Buyers

07 November 2012

Great feedback from our “meet the buyer event” with Ocado on 10th October 2012, when we managed to get almost 70 Soil Association licencees in front of the buying team at Ocado HQ in Hatfield.

It was an event 12 months in the making, with a series of meetings between the Soil Association and the senior team at Ocado discussing ways of working together to drive opportunity and growth in the organic market. Ocado trade 10 times more than their fair share on organic sales, with an extremely comprehensive range (almost 2000 products). And we learned that by 2017, 44% of us are expected to shop online for groceries. It was clear that Ocado could benefit from an introduction to innovative products and suppliers to further expand their organic range. 

Soil Association licensees were keen to seize the opportunity of learning more about Ocado’s trading requirements and to have the chance of introducing their brands and products to the senior trading team. An open invitation went out to all licensees and participants came from the north east, Northern Ireland, Wales and even as far as Italy.

The event was over-subscribed, but we managed to find face-to-face time for all the businesses that wanted to be there. There was no restriction on the types of products that could be presented, and they ranged from baby textiles to mens’ toiletries, turkeys to superfoods. It was an impressive variety, and a testament to the real innovation which is taking place in the organic market.

Some of the companies who came along already trade with Ocado in a small way, but were keen to present their wider range. For others this was a first venture into the higher-volume online market. Each business had a 10-minute slot with the relevant trading manager, so it felt like a Dragon’s Den style pitch: great practice in presenting under time pressure!

Feedback from the day has been hugely positive, and certainly encourages us to plan for similar events with other supportive retailers, wholesalers and caterers. Ocado were certainly impressed by the range and variety of ideas. Rose Price, Head of Buying, said that the day had been extremely useful in giving Ocado a speedy introduction to exciting new ideas within the organic market: “Our customers want a broad choice of organic products, and as we plan to extend our range, this has been very valuable in finding those new products quickly.”

Licensees didn’t hold back in their enthusiasm for telling us how useful the event had been for them. “An excellent event for the Soil Association to have pulled together,” said Caroline Bell from Acorn Dairy. Cornish Sea Salt’s Ellie Bradshaw told us, “The buyer we met was most approachable and seemed suitably impressed with our product range. We’ve since made contact with the buying manager for our category and we’ll let you know of developments.”

Peter Hawkes of Greenscents said: “My session was all I could have wished for, and we’re going for a more in-depth meeting next week. We feel this is an important strand of the Soil Association’s role – we’ve certainly found it easier to sell our products to people committed to organic.”

Please do email me to tell me any further results from your discussions. We’ll be tracking the number of new line listings that come about from the day, and we’ll keep you posted about similar events arranged for the future.

Finn Cottle, Soil Association Trade Consultant

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