I can’t help myself, but I have to say that things are hotting up. Most plans for the Soil Association’s Organic September have been laid and Aileen Nicol has been busy fine tuning our Organic, Feed Your Happy activity. The combined efforts across the industry show promising signs of further gains for the organic sector, from which we shall all benefit – and in a holistic interpretation of the expression, this means the sector, our retail partners, consumers and of course the little blue marble we all inhabit as it makes its merry way around the sun.
So why the bubbly confidence? Despite so much uncertainty in the approach to Brexit, it was encouraging last week to meet one of our members who stunned me somewhat with the fact that research he had undertaken for one of his clients. He found that with every £1.00 increase in sales of organic produce sold to their customers, there was an additional £6.00 of other grocery sales made. It was a moment. For a while now, we have talked about the value of the organic shopping basket. An organic shopping basket, on the whole, is worth twice the value of a basket made of non-organic items. It is the reasons behind these consistent observations that are important.
As consumers become more and more aware of the issues relating to health, the environment and sustainability, they are increasingly voting with their wallet and feet – supporting brands and retailers that are slowly dealing with the issues and values they hold as individuals. I propose that people are trading over to products and companies that are making the effort and are beginning to understand the true cost and value of their purchasing decisions and making conscious decisions to support change. This trend flows like a deep current, not just in the UK, but globally and organic resonates clearly and loudly across the globe as part of the solution to the many complex problems we face as a society.
Well, that’s all lovely, but what is the call to action? Despite our growth, we still under-perform as a country compared to our European partners. We are jogging along reasonably comfortably, but falling further behind the pack. Ignoring politics for the moment, and concentrating on our customers’ perspective, the retail landscape for organic is still a bit patchy and disjointed. It is still enormously difficult to access a logical and comprehensive range of organic products across the country. Some stores and parts of the country do better than others, some a lot worse. We know many retailers that under index on organic compared to their market share, so there is a big prize out there. Why can’t I buy organic cereals for breakfast if I can buy organic milk almost everywhere, is my first anguished cry. The offer for organic at point of purchase still doesn’t make a lot of sense for most organic consumers and it is a frustrating shop for many. Retail needs a joined up organic plan, driven from the top down, if it is going to address the changing expectations of its customer base.