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Despite the cost-of-living crisis, shoppers are continuing to make environmentally friendly food choices in 2023, and seeking out sustainably sourced products on a more regular basis.
As Steven Jacobs, business development manager at Organic Farmers & Growers (OF&G), explained, “Consumers are increasingly looking for ways to ‘make a difference’ with their purchase choices, and ‘organic’ is widely recognised, valued and trusted. It is critical that the organic sector continues to invest in a consistent and unified message to communicate the value and benefits of the word ‘organic’.”
The Soil Association Certification’s Organic Market Report 2023, revealed that the UK’s organic market is now worth a record £3.1 billion, driven by 1.6% growth in sales in 2022, with shoppers spending almost £8.5 million on organic products every day.
“The research is clearly showing that consumers are increasingly motivated by their desire to choose sustainable products which make a real difference - and organic consumers are shopping more often, more ethically and more locally,” Niamh Noone, senior marketing manager at the Soil Association, told Speciality Food.
According to Steven, “Independent retailers can capitalise on this by considering the number of growing eco-active consumers who value and trust organic beyond its perceived premium price point. These people are actively seeking guaranteed assurances about the integrity of the food they are buying.
“We know that typically organic shoppers will spend more per basket than non-organic and invariably on higher value items. By promoting organic products, farm shops can encourage these shoppers instore and drive overall margins.”
This year marks 50 years of organic certification, and as independent retailers are champions of the organic movement, this offers a unique opportunity across the country to really celebrate and pull focus during September.
Due to their unique ability to communicate with customers, unlike most multiples, the month presents fine food shops with a specific, dedicated window to share the great stories of their suppliers and champion the ethical credentials that underpin organic food and drink.
“Messaging around organic’s assurance and integrity appeals to consumers who are invested in quality, nutritious food that is produced with consideration for the environment and animal welfare,” Steven explained.
Indeed, as Emma Mosey, owner of Yolk Farm and Minskip Farm Shop and chair of the Farm Retail Association, told Speciality Food,
“Even if we are not farming organically, we might sell produce that is organic, and can use our excellent reputations for honesty and transparency to highlight this to the consumer.”
As 2023 is significant for the Organic September campaign, the Soil Association is poised to shout even louder, raising awareness of the role farming and our food systems play in the climate and nature crisis, and prompt reappraisal of organic as a solution.
According to Niamh, “Organic September is the perfect opportunity for independent food retailers to combine forces with farmers and brands to shout loud and proud about the benefits of organic for climate, nature and health.”
There are plenty of resources for farm shops, delis and food halls to use to help boost awareness and sales during the month of September.
The Soil Association has a new Visual Merchandising Guide written specifically for independent retailers to help create compelling displays and points of interest within their shops, ideal for training new staff or ensuring shelves and counters are always kept fresh and appealing. The material includes how to cross-sell and attract more customers, using the organic message.
One independent retailer that certainly makes use of these is Yolk Farm and Minskip Farm Shop, as owner Emma explained, “It’s great that Organic September often send out marketing materials to be used in store. We can also use social media and email marketing to raise awareness amongst customers and drive footfall.”
“There are also some inspiring ideas for your own local PR – engaging with local media to get key messages in the press about organic and how it benefits nature and climate,” Niamh added.
“And why not hook up with some of your local organic suppliers and farmers – to invite them in to share their stories with your customers across the month.”
Indeed, independent retailers are usually heavily involved with their local communities, which enables them to connect buyer and producer. As Steven explained, “One of the strengths of the farm shop sector is the direct relationships that individual retailers have with their suppliers.
“This presents a fantastic opportunity for ‘meet the maker’ events that encourage food and drink producers to speak directly with the community and share their passion and talk about their experiences.”