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Founded by the Soil Association in 2014, the Organic September campaign has grown in popularity as more farmers opt for nature-friendly practices and shoppers look for pesticide-free fruit and vegetables.
In fact, according to Roger Kerr, CEO of Organic Farmers & Growers, “Almost nine out of 10 households purchased organic products in 2021. Of course, the cost-of-living crisis is impacting the general shopping basket food spend, but we are seeing resilience in the organic market. As seen in the recession in 2008/09 organic consumers are loyal and continue to spend.”
But how can independent fine food retailers sell more organic produce off the back of the campaign?
A successful campaign
According to the Soil Association, 2022 was another successful year for Organic September. As William Leabeater, senior marketing manager, told Speciality Food, “We’ve seen consumers really get involved online, with hundreds of thousands of engagements on social media.
“Retailers have really got behind the campaign and utilised the point of sale and digital assets to fully engage with their customers on the key messaging around the sustainability, quality and taste of organic. We have had great engagement with the digital toolkit and the PoS packs sold out.”
In fact, Eversfield Organic saw increased sales stemming from their email marketing campaigns, blogs and social media content during September.
“In terms of differing our approach to previous years, we set out to plan all of our Organic September content at the beginning of the month, connecting specific products and information to specific dates. Overall, we’ve noticed a lot more engagement with the campaign across social media, with many brands rightfully taking the opportunity to shout about their organic status”, commented Mitch Thorne, marketing executive.
For Mr Organic, Organic September 2022 was one of their biggest to date. Maddie Grinham, brand manager at the company, explained, “We have found that as consumers’ understanding of organic food has grown, and our Organic September campaigns have evolved from purely increasing awareness of what organic is, to focusing more on the environmental benefits of organic agriculture.
“Our Super Tomato campaign was designed to not just showcase our products, but to amplify the growing voices touting organic as one of the best ways we help to save our planet. It’s also great to see Organic September growing year by year, with more brands and retailers getting involved and helping to advocate for not just their individual products, but for organic as a way of life.”
Educating the public
Successfully selling organic produce comes down to the art of educating your customers in a non-patronising way that also resonates with people.
As Maddie explained, “I think the best way to do this is by keeping it simple. Organic has many benefits for consumers – be it ingredient provenance, freshness, taste, sustainability etc.
“Whilst there is a general perception amongst consumers that organic food is better, we believe it is our job as producers and retailers to add tangibility to this statement and provide the relevant information in an easily digestible way.
“Stats about the impact of organic – for example, the fact that insect and bird life is 50% more abundant on organic farms really helps consumers understand how their purchasing decisions relate to a real-life issue that they care about. By working to understand exactly what their customers care about, retailers can add value and relevance to the benefits of organic.”
Mitch added, “We like to tailor our content in order to ensure we aren’t just waffling at our customers with regard to why they should be buying organic products. Although this information is important, we believe it should always be paired with something light-hearted. Thus, we like to suggest recipes from our recipe hub, point to community events and collaborate with suppliers in order to create content that is both educational and entertaining.”
For Roger, the simple answer is increasing the visibility of organic products in-store and raising awareness of organic’s values to help build customer interest. He told Speciality Food, “It is also important to keep supporting organic’s loyal following and to reiterate that organic food, with its roots going back to the middle of last century, is food you can trust because it is underpinned by legally binding standards.
“It is critical in the face of the current environmental challenges that we bring greater clarity to people about the choices they make and how they can affect positive change through the food products they buy.”
Selling more organic
But explaining to customers the benefits of organic fruits and vegetables is the easy bit, the hard part is turning this into sales.
According to Maddie, “We believe that retailers must cater their ranges to consumer demand, and look at how the products they stock can solve a particular problem their customers face. Since the pandemic, more and more of us are prioritising our health and looking for products that can deliver high-quality ingredients and reductions in salt, sugar and fat.
“There is also a marked shift away from big brands, with consumers gravitating to challenger brands that have much more of a focus on sustainability, ethics, and innovation. By understanding these needs, retailers can ensure they are stocking a good range of Organic products that perfectly match their target consumer.”
Mitch also recommends using the sense of community built by independent retail to your advantage. He explained, “It comes down to strengthening our ties in the local community. We’ve steadily built a loyal customer base by combining bespoke, personal service and quality organic produce.”
As he concluded, “By striving for a supreme customer experience, word of mouth has worked in our favour and helped our sales figures. Along with friendly reminders of the health, taste, and environmental benefits of organic, we believe this is why our independent outlets are thriving.”