With news that supermarket own-label organic sales are in decline, one  prominent figure in the natural products sector is calling on the trade to “big-up the real brands”.

In March the Soil Association’s Organic Market Report showed that sales of supermarket own-label organics were down 9.5% in 2011, while organic sales overall fell for the third year running in the supermarket channel – the result of aggressive de-listing of organic ranges by the big retailers.

Responding to the news, Charles Redfern – founder of the Organico and Fish4Ever brands – told Natural Products: “I’ve been warning about this for absolutely years. Organic is an “integrity” story, about the whole brand provenance and it needs investment in selling that story. Too many people rubber-stamped the rush to create supermarket own labels some years back as a positive development – but this was at the direct cost of de-listing and effectively blocking real organic brands. We are now seeing the consequences.

“In the UK we have only a handful of organic brands representing true organic foods well; and often these have been taken over by multi-nationals leading to the same tepid engagement in the values of organic.”

Redfern predicts that the same loss of consumer confidence will set in with the fair trade sector as multinational brands and supermarket own-label starts to dominate the landscape and flaunt their “ethical halos”.

The message for everyone in organic should be clear, he says – big-up real brands. “Clearly the multiples failing is good news for many indies but look what’s happening in our own backyard. Some indies are doing exactly the same, stripping back down to Aldi-style brands, driven entirely by low prices. Too many products are now just too cheap in the indie sector, it’s a sector that risks being “Ratnerised”. I completely believe in the need for affordability but the other side of consumer affordability is producer impoverishment – something gives somewhere along the line, and you get cheapening and a loss of values. A delicate balance needs to be struck to arrive at fair pricing. The UK too often goes down the £shop route – the price of everything, the value of nothing…”

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About the Author

Jim Manson

Jim Manson is Editor-In-Chief of Diversified Communication UK's natural and organic publishing portfolio. He’s written widely on environment and development issues for specialist magazines and national media, including the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Times, Time Out and World Bank Urban Age.

Articles by Jim Manson
Jim Manson

4 Responses to “Come on, let’s big-up real brands” – organic pioneer

  1. Avatar
    Dominic Sutton May 9, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

    I agree whole-heartedly with this. Let’s big up the real brands, the pioneers and the ones who are organic to the core. Show the public that what we sell is about what we believe in, rather than engaging in a race the bottom as all shops stock the same, glossy organic brands which are no more than tiny off-shoots of the same companies filling every other shop with toxic rubbish.

    But it’s a two way street – that would only seem fair and the best way for everyone to work to our, and Organic’s, mutual advantage. Which is why the spectacle of “organic brands” desperately scrambling over each other to get into bed with giant, mega-tax-avoiding, techno-Walmart-on-steroids Amazon is so… unedifying (I have toned down my language here for public consumption).


    is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

  2. Avatar
    Jordan Eske May 5, 2012 at 6:52 am #

    I run an online store and I totally agree with Karin about getting the message across. I am currently in the development process of some new ideas and adding new products this summer because I know our customers want organics. I notice even with the little tv watching that I do, there are little seeds of organics, so it is time, but now is the time to create alliances and I am here to form some.

    I am not know in this specific niche, but I am totally here to grow some natural products that will help people.

    With the supermarkets doing the extra pricing, that is just business and is smart. However in order to wing people to go organic, the pricing won’t matter but endorsements from high influence people. And then videos from that point and then it will help in growing or spreading the message.

  3. Avatar
    Karin May 2, 2012 at 12:20 am #

    Even my posh friends don’t buy organic. Though they shop for expensive, good quality food they just don’t look out for organic. I personally think that there is not enough media coverage about how bad conventional food really is. In Germany and Austria you hear almost weekly about the horrors of conventional farming.. Isn’t there more we could do to get the message accross?
    Let’s start a facebook group or a website why organic is better.

  4. Avatar
    Elisabeth Winkler April 30, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

    “Organic is an “integrity” story.” YES!

    And it is hard to see how a true story of integrity can fit within the industrial and centralised supermarket model.

    On the other hand, organic food sold in supermarkets has helped to popularise organics.

    On the OTHER other hand, supermarkets’ extra premium on organics has made organic food expensive and seem “elite”.

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