Blog: Dean BestTrouble finding common organic ground?

Dean Best | 23 September 2009

Finding common ground in the UK organic movement is like nailing jelly to a wall.

But, after 12 months in which the downturn has eaten away of sales of organic food and when the category is facing growing competition from the ever-robust Fairtrade and free-range groups for the ethical pound, consensus among suppliers is needed - and fast - over how to reignite the sector.

Yesterday's event in London, organised by umbrella body the Organic Trade Board, to outline plans for a generic marketing campaign in the New Year, was a significant first step.

The potential of EU funding next summer  would give the organic sector more resources to shout about their wares.

However, the OTB conference also served to highlight the challenges facing the sector - and the different views on how to tackle those obstacles.

The presence of one of Tesco's organic buying team at the conference was a boost. Tesco is the largest retailer of organic food in the UK, and after Asda's recession-fuelled decision to reduce its organic range, some may have been questioning the commitment of the multiples to the sector.

Nevertheless, the organic movement has many hurdles to surmount before finding a marketing ploy that all in the sector can agree on - let alone resonate with consumers.

Some saw the prospect of developing a single-issue marketing campaign in the mould of Fairtrade as too simplistic for the complexities surrounding organic. Complex, however, does not register well with shoppers.

There was also much discussion over the price of organic food. Tesco said 'more value for money' was needed. The OTB said organic food should be priced on a par with premium, conventional brands. Others said the perception that all organic food was too expensive was wrong.

As attendees filed out of the event, there was much to chew on - not least the organic cereal bars in the goodie bags provided.

The goodie bags befitted the often idiosyncratic nature of the organic movement - and perhaps contained the most eclectic set of goodies I have seen in my years on the circuit.

For, alongside the cereal, sarnies and muesli were organic tampons. And organic 'intimate' lubricant.


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