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Organic brands fly as market growth strengthens, says Wessanen CEO

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Leading organic and natural food business Wessanen says that its organic brands are performing strongly as the UK market for organic food and drink continues to experience good growth.

Speaking ahead of this year’s Organic September celebrations and events, Wessanen UK CEO, Patrick Cairns, commented: “Our products are flying off the shelves at the moment. We work hard to make healthy, natural food more interesting and accessible, and our message certainly seems to be chiming with people. Natural, healthy food is definitely rising up their agendas.”

“… our message certainly seems to be chiming with people. Natural, healthy food is definitely rising up their agendas”

Wessanen says that its top UK brands – Clipper, Kallo and Whole Earth – each lead their respective organic segments. Clipper currently has a 41% share of the UK organic tea market, while Kallo has a 90% market share of the organic rice cake segment and 50% share of the organic stocks and gravies category. The company’s Whole Earth brand meanwhile enjoys a 79% share of the organic peanut butter segment.

Wessanen Organic September product shotBuilding on strong growth across its portfolio of natural and organic brands, Wessanen UK is set to launch a number of new organic products in the autumn. These will include 100% Peanuts organic peanut butters from Whole Earth, organic gravy sachets from Kallo and organic tea infusions from Clipper.

The company is also getting behind Organic September by supplying prize bundles or organic Wessanen products for Facebook prizes, staging Organic Thursdays throughout September for all employees at its Camberley and Beaminster sites and organising its own 4th Annual Organic Day.

Cairns says the UK organic sector’s return to growth is part of “a huge shift towards natural foods”. Running in parallel, he says, is “an increasing consumer focus on quality and the impact of products on the environment, animal welfare and health”. Consumers, he says, are “looking much more at the ingredients label on a pack – and generally they like to see fewer ingredients, and less complicated ingredients”.

“(consumers) are looking much more at the ingredients label on a pack – and generally they like to see fewer ingredients, and less complicated ingredients”

Organic is enjoying success, he says, “because it is the most widely recognized mark for ‘good for you, good for the environment’ products.” Wessanen is determined to drive that forwards. “We have set up our own Organic Expertise Centre, which funds and collects research around organic that we then use to engage with government and non-government bodies – I think we’re the only business to do that.”

That all said, Cairns is clear that proclaiming organic credentials is not enough. “Consumers rarely buy something just because it is organic. For us it’s all about compelling brands, great tasting food and tip top quality – plus some broader environmental guarantees. So, for example, Clipper is the first national tea brand to switch entirely to non-bleached bags. Health values are also absolutely central to what we do – we are very sensitive about dietary requirements and nutritional integrity. So, we offer low-salt variants and 95% of the range is vegetarian – which is good for the environment as well as human health. Fairtrade has important relevance. We have a broad range of Fairtrade products – and again, we go well beyond the minimum requirements.”

Cairns says Wessanen’s strong performance – all its UK brands have been delivering double digit growth for a number of years – owes much to the company’s focus on category expertise. “As a business we focus on categories where we have clear expertise and excellence and we aim to bring innovation to the market place in areas where we can really add value. We’re also concerned about operational excellence – we want to be great people to do business with.”

That ethos, says Cairns, goes to the roots of the Wessanen business – a small European manufacturing and brand-owning group (publicly quoted and listed on the Euronet exchange) operating in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and the UK that is focused on natural, organic and dietetic foods. “We’re the only international food company focused on these areas and the strength of our share price hopefully reflects the merit of that focus and commitment.”

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