The U.K. Organic
Go for It!
By Jennifer Jones
What do you call an organics market thats relatively undeveloped but simply brimming with potential?
Answer: You call it yours... if youre quick off the mark, have ample stocks of desirable organic products and are willing to commit to a comprehensive marketing plan.
The United Kingdom is, at this moment, simply ravenous for organic foodsoverall demand is increasing by 40 percent, while supply is increasing by only 25 percent.
Why do U.K. consumers buy organics? Health issues are key in this market, according to recent market research; in light of highly publicized food scares, consumer awareness of food safety has increased substantially. In this market as in others, there is a general perception that organic food is safe, natural and unsullied.
Other important public perceptions are that organic food is "environmentally friendly," "animal welfare friendly" and "free of genetic modification."
Organics Ride a Wave Thats Titanic
The upsurge in demand for organic produce has led all the major retail outlets to recognize sales potential in the organic sector. Overall retail sales topped $650 million for marketing year 1998/99. Imported products account for about three out of every four pounds spent on organic sales.
Despite stepped-up production of its own organic milk, imports of organic dairy products are on the rise in the United Kingdom. Likewise, imports of organic meat, which were negligible in 1997-98, now comprise over 4 percent of total supply. Moreover, 80 percent of organic fruit and vegetables sold in the United Kingdom are imported.
In addition to fresh products, there are opportunities galore in the U.K. retail market for high-value consumer foods.
Until recently, most organic products imported from the United States were fruits, vegetables and salads. But thats changing; the shift is to shelf-stable, high-value consumer foods. Some of the most popular categories include soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, sauces, snacks, confectionery and frozen foods.
Organics at Your (Food) Service
Organic restaurants and cafes are somewhat harder to find in the United Kingdom than in other European Union (EU) countries. Youll find a few in London, and a smaller number yet in rural areas, where the majority of produce is locally sourced. Cafes are mostly incorporated into health food shops and organic stores which cater to high-end clientele.
But all this may be on the brink of change, as market-ambitious catering firms scout out the potential for organic alternatives to conventional fare.
The Nectar of the Sector
Leading supermarkets account for about two-thirds of organic food sales. Most carry an ever-increasing range of products; some even feature their own-label of organic goods. Leading chains all expect to achieve very large increases in organic sales; thus they promote U.K. organic production and encourage conventional growers to convert to organics.
Large chains express a range of attitudes and approaches toward organic food; Tesco, Sainsburys, Safeway, Asda, Waitrose and Iceland have been identified as among the most committed.
In addition to supermarkets, there are an increasing number of independent retailers selling organic products, including not only fresh food but also a wide range of dairy products, bakery goods and processed foods and drinks.
Box schemes are a popular retail venue in the United Kingdom: fresh, seasonal organic food is assembled and delivered to subscribing households, either directly to the door or to a central drop-off point. Individual growers, wholesalers and organic buyers use this method to supply food to more than 45,000 families in the United Kingdom.
The Notable Need for Organic Feed
Major U.K. grain traders have highlighted an increased need for imported cereals for animal feeds. Given the rapid growth in organic livestock and the relatively slow growth in domestic production, imports are expected to increase further.
Organics Importers in the United Kingdom
The following companies have a history of interest in organic products from the United States:
F.R. Benson & Partners, Ltd.
Unit 15, Watford Metro Centre, Tolpits Lane, Watford, Herts WD1 8SS
Tel.: +44 1923 204500
Fax: +44 1923 240569 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Maple syrup, honey, preserves, dehydrated potatoes, dehydrated meat and poultry products
Community Foods, Ltd.
Micross, Brent Terrace, London, NW2 1LT
Tel.: +44 20 8450 9411
Fax: +44 20 8208 1803
Market: Manufacturing, retail, wholesale
Preserves, pastas and ingredients
Den Farm Lane, Collier Street
Tonbridge, Kent, TN12 9PX
Tel.: +44 1892 730 447
Fax: +44 1892 730 566
Organic fruit and vegetables
Griffin & Brand European, Ltd.
Trophy House, Leacon Road, Ashford, Kent, TN23 4TU
Tel.: +44 1233 645 941 Fax: +44 1233 639 340
Market: Catering, retail, wholesale
Fruit and vegetables
Court Farm, Milverton, Taunton, Somerset, TA4 1NF
Tel.: +44 1823 401 205
Fax: +44 1823 400 276
Market: Retail, wholesale
Herbs, spices, ingredients and hot drinks
Transfesa Road, Paddock Wood, Kent, TN12 6UT
Tel.: +44 1892 835 577
Fax: +44 1892 834 890
Market: Retail, wholesale
Fruits and vegetables
Organic Farm Foods (Wales)
Unit 25, Lampeter Industrial Estate, Tregaron Road, Lampeter, Ceredigion, SA48 8LT
Tel.: +44 1570 423 099
Fax: +44 1570 423 280
Market: Import, packing, wholesaler
Organically grown fruits and vegetables
Shipton Mill, Ltd.
Long Newton, Tetbury, Glos, GL8 8RP
Tel.: + 44 1666 505 050
Fax: +44 1666 504 666
Bakery products and cereals
Stevens & Brotherton, Ltd.
S&B House, Vinson Close, Knoll Rise, Orpington, Kent BR6 0EG
Tel.: +44 1689 877799 Fax: +44 1689 825892
Rice, dried fruit, nuts and grape juice
The author is an agricultural marketing specialist at the U.S. Embassy, London. Tel.: +44 20 7408 8040; Fax: +44 20 7408 8031; E-mail: JoneJE@fas.usda.gov