If the month of October is now synonymous with the Stoptober campaign initiated in 2012 by the NHS to encourage smokers to quit their habit, September should soon be more commonly known as the UK’s dedicated organic month. That’s if the increasing sales of organic produce and the market continue to grow at the rate it has been.
This September marked another successful organic month launched by the Soil Association. Like the Stoptober campaign which provides support and advice to those seeking to kick their habit, Organic September aims to educate the public on the benefits of an organic lifestyle and encourage shoppers to switch up their grocery buys with organic food.
The reasons for eating organic are easy to see. The main difference being your food is free from chemicals and pesticides, which in non-organic food can remain in the food even if you wash or cook it. Pesticides have been linked to a variety of health conditions in humans, from minor problems such as skin irritation, headaches and fatigue through to much more serious health hazards such as cancer and damage to the reproductive systems, congenital disabilities and behavioural problems. Scary stuff. Farming without the use of synthetic pesticides can also combat climate change, while livestock remains free from antibiotics, hormones and GM crops, preventing them from entering the food chain. Eating organically is also scientifically better for you too. A study by the British Journal of Nutrition has found that organic food has up to 60% more antioxidants compared to non-organic food, so the swap to organic is also good for your tastebuds.
It seems more and more consumers are reading up on the benefits of an organic lifestyle, which the Organic Market Report for 2016 says is down to the socially conscious young people being leading adopters due to their “strong social, ethical and environmental values.” The report also estimates that the sales of organic products are now worth £1.95 billion and this year saw the market grow nearly 5% on last year’s sales. This is in spite of our overall food purchasing being relatively low. While all the major supermarkets now see the advantage of retailing organic goods, this report finds that consumers are turning to independent retailers for its produce, notably for items such as the fresh food boxes and products available to purchase online such as store goods. It counts this despite overall food spends are relatively low. The significant rise in product sales for independent retailers against the those in supermarkets should lead supermarkets to increase the amount of organic produce they stock, catering for a new consumer.
One such independent retailer, Mr Organic is noticing the demand for high-quality organic foods, now becoming the fastest growing organic food company in the UK. Last week we were invited down to Mr Organic’s Supper Club at Printworks Kitchen, celebrating the launch of its sixteen new products, and of course Organic September. The story of Mr Organic is as wholesome as the name suggests and since 2009, it has been committed to producing top organic food that your everyday shopper can easily adopt. Its products include kitchen basics such as tinned tomatoes and passatas through to dried pasta and oils and even the more gourmet style add-ins and spreads.
Teen food blogger and vegan cook Plant Based Judy served up a delightful three-course meal using all organic, vegan produce from Mr Organic’s food cupboard. Beginning with a tomato bruschetta with lashings of Mr Organic’s olive oil, these were accompanied by organic gin-based cocktails shook up with some of the Mr Organic fruity conserves – an easy to make cocktail and tasted great.
The main dishes included a selection of warm salads using Mr Organic’s tinned beans and dried goods. One dish which particularly stood out was the vegan spicy black rice salad with almonds and sesame oil. This was followed up by the tastiest chocolate pastries and baked rustic pear pie. What was apparent on the menu was the amount of dishes that could be made using tinned or dried products – so convenient for customers to knock up at home.
The emerging of such companies and their commitment to creating tasty, accessible and easy to serve vegan and organic foods show that brands are aware that it should be an easy process to tempt customers over. Organic products need to fit into the consumer’s lifestyle and be the natural choice for the everyday shopper, rather than a special one off, explored by the Mr Organic team at last week’s Supper Club.
There’s still a long way to go in terms of changing the culture around food, but the fact that organic food sales have been increasing year on year shows the trend is one that’s hopefully here to stay. And the more demand, the healthier and tastier all our food will be.