‘The new generation of consumers want products that they just can’t get in the multiples’

Clare McDermott, Business Development Director at The Soil Association, on why independent retailers should take advantage of the growth in Organic

Independent health store retailers are very important to the Soil Association and the reason for that is very simple.

Organic has come back into growth over the past three years, and in the UK that growth is not coming from multiples and supermarkets; it’s primarily coming from the independent sector. Sales in the organic market reached £1.95 billion in 2015, and in independent stores alone, the growth was 7.5% on the previous year, compared with 3.2% growth in supermarkets. Four out of five independent retailers increased their sales in organic produce last year.

At The Soil Association we want to support independent stores to help them to take advantage of that growth. The reasons behind it are that the new generation of consumers – often called ‘millennials’ – are not just doing their shopping at out-oftown supermarkets. They might be buying the basics there, but they are also visiting specialist shops to supplement their basic shop, and are often specifically looking for organic products. Our research shows us that food is really important to them and they also shop differently by occasion or when they’re cooking for others. At these times they want to be able to talk about where the food has come from, and what its benefits are.

We know that this generation follow food bloggers, and get new ideas for recipes, and want to buy the ingredients; and we also know that they often can’t get them in the supermarkets. Organic products tick all the boxes, but also, crucially, the staff in independent stores can answer their questions and satisfy their curiosity about provenance by telling them the stories behind the things they’re buying.

We want to help the independent stores to both increase their range of organic items, and also to highlight the ones that they already stock and promote them to the customers. As soon as new products are certified by Soil Association Certification we want to share details with independent retailers so they can stock them if they want to, and keep up to date with the constant and exciting innovation in the organic market.

We have a full Independent Retailer Strategy. We have point of sale materials that can help retailers to highlight organic products and give customers reasons why they should buy organic. These are free to all independent retailers. We have also produced a visual merchandising guide, also free of charge, full of tips for retailers on how to draw attention to their organic stock with clever visuals. Plus we do quarterly online training webinars for all staff members. If you have a member of your team who is new, or maybe you feel that you need to update your knowledge, you can sign up for one of the webinars, which involve a presentation about organic followed by an opportunity for questions and answers.

Alongside the Organic Trade Board we launched a campaign called Wake up to Organic last year, which we ran in Bristol, Glasgow and London. It was a great success, and retailers reported that it attracted new customers to their stores, and also customers at a time of day when they might not normally shop. This year we’re rolling it out to other parts of the country, and it will take place on 15 June. Our Organic September campaign was also really successful in 2015, with sales up across the board, and lots of great social media involvement. We really want to build on that success when we run the campaign again this year.

We are also doing a big push on getting lots of information about the latest research into the nutritional value of organic produce out to retailers so that they can pass that on to their customers.

At Natural and Organic Products at ExCeL this year we are running two workshops which will be of interest to indie retailers; Lee Holdstock, Trade Relationship Manager, will be speaking at 2pm on 18 April on understanding the customer followed by an insight into our visual merchandising guide, and on 19th at 1.15pm I will be giving an overview of the organic market. These will both take place in the main theatre. We also have an enhanced stand and there is a dedicated organic area, as well as a pavilion in the beauty area, so we would love retailers to come and visit our stand at J5.

For more information, and to get hold of Soil Association promotional materials, the visual merchandising guide or to sign up for a webinar, please visit soilassociation.org/independentretail or call 0117 314 5118

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