Organic Articles: It's A Family Affair

The Organic Consultancy

It’s A Family Affair

Simon Wright
The Organic Consultancy

This article originally appeared in the July 2002 edition of Organic Business.

When Steve Warshal chose “An End to Lazy Marketing” as the theme for this years Marketing Week Going Organic conference he was right on the button. In the very first presentation of the day Simon Skeldon of TNS showed how the growth of the organic sector has begun to level off with year-on-year growth down to 15% (from a peak of 55% eighteen months ago). Factor in the recent news that Muller has withdrawn from organic yoghurt, and surely we have a sector in trouble ?

Well, no. Fifteen percent is still a very respectable growth rate and the envy of most other food sectors. Fifteen percent growth looks manageable over the long-term, and offers the billion pound UK organic sector a chance to make continuing and steady progress as an established part of the food industry. Muller choosing to enter the organic yoghurt sector when it already contained two well-established brands (Yeo Valley and Rachel’s) plus strong own-label was always going to be difficult and Muller now admit that consumers didn’t associate their brand with organic credentials. The failure of Muller has not put off other major players and further organic launches from new-to-organic multinationals are in the pipeline. What we are seeing is the end of organic being lazily slapped on to any old brand in order to drag it onto the supermarket shelves.

I talked to several Going Organic delegates who were disappointed that the conference had not delivered any simple pointers on where to go next. Partly this is because the days of easy sales are gone – organic is looking like a very grown-up category these days. Increasingly organic is a sector that obeys the mainstream rules of clearly communicated consumer benefits, professional presentation, promotional support and category management. However Simon Skeldon did highlight two key areas of opportunity. Firstly, ensuring that organic babies become organic toddlers and thereafter organic children. Secondly, converting the parents who are buying organic babyfood for their babies but not eating organic food themselves. My own experience with focus groups is that every parent regards their new-born baby as perfect and needing the absolute best in nutrition, which they look to organic to deliver. Unfortunately these same parents claim it is “too late” for organic food to help their own health, citing years of booze, fags and McDonalds !

Fulfilling both these opportunities would increase the number of fully organic young families, a highly desireable outcome in commercial terms. These are considerable challenges for those FMCG brand and retail marketeers now engaging with the organic sector for the first time. Only by meeting these challenges successfully can the UK organic sector continue to exhibit sustainable growth.

Simon Wright
The Organic Consultancy