Promoting organic

Following another successful Organic September, Alison Muirhead offers some tips to independent retailers to keep the pot boiling into the festive season and beyond.


Alison Muirhead is Business Development Manager at Soil Association Certification

Much like your wardrobe, it’s always worth giving your shop a seasonal rejig to give your customers and staff some much-needed inspiration.

During these seasonal turnarounds, what often works for retailers is aligning your social media and merchandising around one of the year’s many food-based celebrations or campaigns.

As autumn blew in, Soil Association Certification’s Organic September campaign brought a focus on the environment and how our food is produced. We saw hundreds of shops showcasing their organic products and using the campaign to show their customers how, by choosing organically-produced food and drink, they are supporting brands and farmers that produce food in a way that’s sensitive to the planet.

Not only does this make sense to any business wanting to do their bit to tackle the climate emergency, it makes business sense too – shoppers are increasingly seeking out sustainable options, and retailers should be pointing them out.

With Organic September behind us, retailers are readying themselves for the festive season, a seasonal and food-focused time of year. This year, more and more shoppers are looking to have a greener Christmas. Here are some of my top tips to bring campaigns and celebrations to your shelves and social media in a way that’s engaging, informative and relevant for your customers.

1 LESSEN YOUR CUSTOMERS’ ECO ANXIETY

There is increasing evidence that consumers are seeking out environmentally-friendly options when shopping, so let’s make it simple for them.

For example, throughout September, we encouraged retailers to explain what organic means and why it can have an impact. Stores can use blackboards, window displays and social media to great effect to highlight changes you’ve made in your product selection or packaging.

Campaigns like Organic September can give these posts and displays context and extra credibility. This will make your customers feel like they’re part of a movement and that they’re having a positive impact through the things they buy in store.

2 TRAIN YOUR STAFF THROUGH CAMPAIGNS

Seasonal events and campaigns are a brilliant opportunity for training and developing staff. Ask a member of staff to take on a campaign, such as Fairtrade Fortnight or Organic September, as a project, creating a plan for merchandising, displays and social media. They can then learn more about the principles behind the campaign and pass that knowledge onto other staff members and customers. You can uncover hidden talents and passions that will really add to your team and their sense of fulfilment.

3 SEEK OUT INDUSTRY EXPERTS AND THEIR RESOURCES

Whether it’s a calendar of seasonal fruit and veg, a key that explains what the certification symbols mean, or POS kits to mark holidays and campaigns, make sure you seek out information and resources to inform your customers and your plans for the year. Often, you don’t even need to create your own. Soil Association Certification offers free POS packs to retailers for its Organic September and Organic Christmas campaigns, and includes materials and messaging that will help you frame the campaigns and use them in store.

This year, we created “Staff Pick” cards that have proved particularly successful for shops. Borrowing the idea from book shops and wine merchants, the “Staff Pick” cards offer a personal touch and are another way of drawing customers’ attention to certain items. Use it for social media content too as a way to introduce your customers to your staff and their favourite products, and showcase their expertise.

Case study

Village Greens Co-op, Prestwich

Karen at Village Greens reports great success with Organic September social media campaigns and using the Soil Association point-of-sale pack.

“I would say that personalising the social media posts worked well. When staff chose favourite products and gave genuine reasons for why they love them, we found engagement with the posts much higher than with simple marketing posts with pictures of products accompanied by descriptions. Our customers know and trust the staff and are interested in their thoughts and, of course, having smiling faces in pictures always attracts attention.

“We kept posts brief and once posted, as with all of our posts, we made sure we followed them, liked any comments and answered any questions as soon as possible. It's important to reach out to customers when they reach out to you, even if it's a short comment we show we appreciate that they took the time to look.

“We continued the theme in-store with 5% off all organic fruit and veg on Organic September Saturday (September 14). We put up posters and told customers at the till in the run up to this. We also had plenty of free samples on the day and throughout the month there were reminders of Organic September dotted around the shop to provoke conversation. Our window display listed the benefits of organic and we found a lot of people weren't fully aware of all the positive impacts of organic farming.”

Why organic sales growth is double non-organic


Growth in organic sales is now double that of non-organic sales, a trend set to continue as demand for organic increases and shopping demographics change. That was the core message at Soil Association Certification’s annual Organic Trade Conference in October, attended by around 200 delegates from across the organic industry.

The conference, titled ‘Together we can make a world of difference’, hit an optimistic note for the future of organic and the potential for a united market to resonate with an increasingly environmentally-aware public. Mike Watkins, Head of Retail and Business insight at Nielsen, revealed another year of growth with organic sales at supermarkets up 3.8% so far in 2019. This level of growth was “impressive” considering the rate of inflation in 2019 has been low.

“There’s growing interest in organic as it’s perceived as good for both individual and planet health,” he said. “The mood of the nation is changing and there is a willingness to make sustainable changes that wasn’t there a few years ago.

“I expect to see a continued increase in demand for more products that are fresh, less processed and better for the planet and I do believe organic food and drink can lead the way.”

David Preston from brand agency The Crow Flies presented consumer research on changing shopper behaviours conducted for Soil Association Certification in the summer.

Consumer choice is moving from individual-centric to planet-centric decision making, as shoppers are increasingly considering the impact they can have on the planet, rather than purely what a product can do for them as an individual. When this was explained to shoppers, they found them “very compelling” reasons to choose organic – particularly in reducing pesticide use and protecting biodiversity, climate and animal welfare.

Clare McDermott, Business Development Director at Soil Association Certification, added: “If everyone involved in the organic movement, from retailers to producers, consistently and clearly reinforces the sustainable benefits of organic farming to both people and planet, then we can convert a desire for change into actions that support organic.”
www.soilassociation.org/certification

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