In what some would say is a long overdue move, last week’s Organic Congress assembled the sector’s expertise and resource including research, production, sales and marketing to discuss “Going for Growth – Transforming organic food and farming in the UK”. It made for a very interesting two days.
Sue Hayman, Shadow Secretary of State for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs gave an encouragingly well-informed and lucid presentation on the need for joined up policy to help deliver benefits for farming and the wider society and a specific recognition of the role that organic can play in helping deliver these outcomes. Whatever your political allegiance, this was a welcome insight into her thinking and one to watch going forward.
A repeated theme from a number of speakers throughout the conference was the need for coordinated action and to maintain delivery of the organic message in political circles, the supply chain, trade and direct to the consumer. Visiting speakers from the Netherlands, Germany and in particular Paul Holmbeck from Denmark re-enforced the benefits of coordinated, cooperative actions.
We can take some comfort from the emerging levels of communication and co-operation now seen within the sector. The English Organic Action Plan, the first Organic Congress of this type and the co-operative work behind communications to the consumer are evidence of this. The silver lining of the chaos around Brexit might well prove to be a more closely forged and stronger organic sector.
In the meantime, despite our concerns relating to trade, consumers continue to buy in to organic. Here at the OTB we are currently analysing recent Kantar Worldpanel data from over 2,000 consumers tracking changes in purchasing behaviour and awaiting Millward Brown research results on attitudes to organic. We should be able to release some information shortly but initial Kantar findings are encouraging. The insights will help refine our strategy for helping drive the market in 2019 and we will make as much available to you as we can, when we can, subject to what we can agree with Kantar. For a full picture, make sure you join us on 6 March 2019 at our annual briefing.