The organic food market has been enjoying some stellar growth over the past few years and UK organic baby food producer Organix has been busy capitalising on that. Michelle Russell met up with managing director Anna Rosier to find out how the company is continuing to grow its market share and the opportunities it see both at home and abroad.
just-food: How much more important has it become for manufacturers and retailers to offer healthier baby food ranges? Is there more pressure now to offer something with added value?
Anna Rosier: Organix was set up 20 years ago so we set our principles on being a very good business doing very good things… We really feel a responsibility to set our own standards and then other people will follow. We are creating food for people and we want to make sure it’s the highest quality that we can possibly offer. For our guys to develop a food, it takes them a long, long time because the products don’t have additives etc. You also have to operate your business in a way that allows that to work [if it costs a bit more to produce]. Everyone works incredibly hard, we understand the cost of everything, we work closely with our suppliers. What we also do is try and make sure we give out the right information to help people make the right choices. We’ve always stood by the fact that organic is incredibly important in terms of exposing children to pesticides so we’ve taken that approach.
just-food: The organic sector took a bit of a tumble during the recession. Are you seeing a reverse in that trend now?
Rosier: When the recession came there was a definite reaction by the supermarkets. People were certainly saying they didn’t want to pay as much for food and so there was a lot of food taken off the shelves and listings went down. If the choices weren’t available then people couldn’t buy it, so it was a bit self-perpetuating. What started to happen is, people started to realise that actually customers will make that choice. They wanted to buy organic, but if it was taken off the shelves then they would potentially go to other places where it was available, like farm shops. The supermarkets have definitely realised that there’s an opportunity here to be able to capture that consumer again. The latest data that came out from Kantar Worldpanel last week was showing that the organic market is back on track. It’s really all about choice and the right messaging.
just-food: Do you think there is more of an understanding now from parents and consumers in general about what buying organic means?
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Rosier: It’s improving. I think because it’s not a single message subject – so Fairtrade for example is farmers being paid a fair wage – and organic is a very complex message. Why people buy organic is for a number of different reasons. They’re coming in for pesticides, they’re coming in for animal welfare, for environmental benefits. As long as you understand the one benefit that works for you then that’s the really important thing. In baby food it’s mainly about pesticides, in beef it’s about animal welfare, whereas wheat or any of the arable products, it’s very much environmental.
just-food: Are you growing market share?
Rosier: Yes… We just launched 26 new foods in the last few months, so we’ve been really busy. But that again is our way of working. There are lots of things out there that children shouldn’t be eating so what we’ll do is make sure they’re protected by creating foods that they really want but in an organic, healthier way.
just-food: So what investments are you making going forward, what else can we expect from Organix this year?
Rosier: Well we just launched 26 products and that took us a while but we were just talking yesterday about what our plans look like for the two seasons that happen next year. We have launches planned for January and then the summer next year. It’s really just making sure we keep focused on the things we do really well.
just-food: How much pressure is there to keep innovating in order to stay ahead of competition from the likes of Heinz, Nestle and Danone, in what is a growing market?
Rosier: They’re set up in a very different way. They take very global insights and create food or experiences in that way. I guess we are potentially a bit closer to mum, so exactly the same principles but just on a smaller scale. The important thing for us, which we stay very true to, is very much about what we want to do, our mission, the choices we’ve made. So yes we can spend time watching what our competitors are doing but it’s really important that we make our choices ourselves and I think that’s something that has remained very important to us and we stay absolutely to those principles.
just-food: There has been a spate of consolidation in the organic baby food sector in recent months, most recently Campbell Soup Co.’s acquisition of Plum Organics. What benefits does being part of a larger group, in your case Swiss baby food maker Hero Group, bring?
Rosier: It was really important for us to find a good home and [Hero Group] have given us that. They’ve loved us for what we were, they’ve allow us to be who we are and we also have the extra security and the support. They really are like our mum and dad, they’re our parent, and it’s lovely that they’ve been able to nurture us in a way that is very true to ourselves. It’s been very interesting to see Plum go through that process as well. It was just so important for us to find the right home and every year we look back and think we absolutely made the right choice.
just-food: Are you looking at international expansion?
Rosier: Yes because our original mission was about our food being accessible to all. We wanted to take what we’ve done in terms of the food we create, the information we give to parents and the challenges of the food industry, and it not be just a UK phenomenon. There are lots of things we could do to take the brand to different areas of the globe. Already we have five strong export businesses in places like Australia, the United Arab Emirates and Cyprus, so that’s a really strong part of the business and we see that there’s a real opportunity there to take what we do overseas. And we would definitely look at emerging markets. They are are coming up to exactly the same levels as we are, so if we can exploit that then that would be a real opportunity for us.