The UK’s organic sector is waking up to the need to market its key messages and is planning a conference to examine consumer attitudes and share experiences.
According to the Soil Association, UK organics were worth £2.1bn in 2008. Although there has been steady growth in recent years, concern has been raised recently that the essential messages are not being effectively communicated – and consumers may be confused.
Richard Jacobs, chief executive of certifier Organic Farmers & Growers, said: “The organic sector seems to have recently woken up to the fact that it has not done a good job of marketing its key messages.
“The many and varied benefits of organic food and farming are getting lost in the obsession with price and in confusion over various, competing food labels.”
The aim of the one-day conference, called Selling Organic: What’s the Story?, is to work out the essential messages that the sector should communicate to consumers in unison.
It will look at consumer attitudes and academic research on promotion and marketing. Individuals and companies that have successfully sold organics as a brand will share their experiences.
A sector-wide approach
Sustain, the campaign for better food and farming, will be present at the conference to give a briefing on an application it is coordinating for European funding to promote the UK organic sector.
Under its programme for internal market promotions, the European Union offers a matching fund for member states to promote organic food to consumers. Although other member states have benefited, the UK has not yet made a successful bid.
Sustain was charged with coordinating a UK application for funds in September 2008. Its goal is to reach ₤500,000 by October, which would total budget of ₤1m, including the matching funds from the EU.
The goal is to bring about a 15 per cent increase in the volume of organic sales each year.
A holistic message
Concern about organic awareness has also been aired by the Soil Association recently. In the charity’s recent report on the state of the market Peter Melchett, policy director, said:
“It is clear from this report that much more work needs to be done to communicate the wider benefits of organic production to the public, especially in relation to health, animal welfare, climate change and the environment.”
He also said drew attention to the bewildering choice of single ethical issues consumers can support, such as free-range, local, pesticide-free, fair trade, seasonal and natural foods.
“To cut through the confusion the organic movement needs to demonstrate more forcefully than ever that organic principles encompass all these single issues and deliver a set of interlocking benefits that can and will still motivate consumers,” he said.
The Selling Organic: What’s the Story? conference will be held in London on 8th October. Speakers include Craig Sams of Green & Blacks’s, Steve Clark of Rachels’, and Lawrence Woodward, director of the Organic Research Center at Elm Farm.
More information is available at www.organicconferences.co.uk