“You’d be a great brand if you weren’t organic” (and other eye openers)

Nick Barnard, managing director of Organic breakfast cereal brand Rude Health knows exactly where the biggest demand lies in the mass breakfast market: Sweet and cheap.

Speaking at the recent OF&G ‘Selling Organic’ conference managing director Nick Barnard said: “With the consumer nowadays it’s all about price. They want low prices, but they want it on their terms.” And with the nation’s default palate still set at ‘Frosties’, says Barnard, the big brands know what they need to do.

“Perhaps the cleverest example of how to take a product that meets the sweet spot is the recent rise in sales of convenience porridge. I’m very happy about this if it brings more people in to eating hot oats in the morning. But what’s the biggest seller of convenience porridge by flavour in the country? It’s golden syrup — yes, golden syrup flavour! And that’s 65-70% per cent of all sales. so that’s what we’re up against; sweet, cheap.

As well as raising the issue of price (the elephant in the room at many an organic debate), Barnard also use his talk to contrast the differing attitudes to organic across Europe. He said: “We take (the brand) to France and they ask us to stick big green ‘Bio’ stickers all over it, so it stands out on shelf. Whereas in England, I’ve actually been told by one supermarket meetings “you’d be a great brand if you weren’t organic”.

Barnard says he can see the buyer’s reasoning: “What she is saying in other words is ‘I’d sell more of your food commercially if you were cheaper’. I’m sorry, but she had a point. She’s got to sell more off her shelves — that’s her job, otherwise she gets fired”.

The company’s response to this reaction from buyers was to stop calling itself Rude Health Organic Food, whilst strenuously retaining all its organic principles. “We took this deep breath as to whether or not we would suddenly be inundated with calls — and we weren’t, because our brand stands for more than organic. It stands for an attitude towards finding better choices in food. So ‘organic’ remains small on pack. Of course, when I export to Scandinavia they always complain that you can’t see that it’s organic! You can’t win.”

Except that on the whole Rude Health is winning. “We’ve grown 48 per cent in the last quarter. We will be doubling our business (sales are on course to reach £2.5 million this year). All right, so we’re not huge, but we will be doubling our business, so we’re going through a surge of growth. And that’s very exciting for us.

“We are thriving because we’ve got an attitude that you can scratch the surface and keep scratching and you won’t find any hidden nasties in there. We are enjoying ourselves. We are bang-on trend because we didn’t start in the wrong place and we’re ‘popular premium’ and we’re connected and we rant!”