Leading certifier adds backing to organic promo bid

Date Published: 17/06/2009

Organic Farmers & Growers has revealed that it is the first certifier to add its financial backing to a UK-wide initiative to boost consumer understanding of organic food.

A core group of industry players and leading companies have come together under the co-ordination of Sustain, the alliance for better food and farming, to instigate a consumer-facing marketing campaign that could attract 50 per cent match funding from the EU.

Other European countries have been making use of this money since 2004, though no similar programme has been undertaken in the UK.

Organic Farmers & Growers, which has been inspecting and licensing organic food and farming since 1993, has committed to financially backing the project and has called on companies and organisations from across the organic sector to also pledge their support and share the burden of funding.

OF&G Chief Executive, Richard Jacobs, said: “I think people have come to realise increasingly clearly in recent months that UK organics has not done the best job of marketing itself. Organics represents a whole range of positives, from animal welfare to environmental improvement and the avoidance of routine chemical use, but when you ask someone why they do or do not buy organic food, they often struggle to explain it clearly.

“For instance, people love the idea of free-range eggs, which have been well marketed. Many don’t realise that free-ranging is at the heart of the organic standards, with all the other benefits on top. It’s that kind of message we must get across, not individually, but as a sector. It’s something that has been talked about for years. Now Sustain is working to pull it together and OF&G is prepared to throw its weight behind the initiative and call on everyone else in organics to do the same.”

A bid for the EU funding is now being put together, co-ordinated by Sustain, with a view to Defra submitting it to the EU later this year. The bid aims to raise £500,000 in the UK, which, with the match funding of the EU, would result in a PR campaign for the brand “organic” of £1million per year for three years.

A number of big name backers are already involved in the project including OMSCo, Rachel’s, OF&G, the Soil Association, the Welsh Assembly Government, Alara Wholefoods, Organic Arable, Organic Farm Foods, the Organic Trade Board , EcoS Consultancy Ltd and Organic Research Centre-Elm Farm.

The planned campaign is intended to be run over three years, with the aim of delivering a 15 per cent annual increase in the volume of organic sales.

Catherine Fookes, of Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming, said: “We’re very pleased that Organic Farmers & Growers believes so strongly in what we are doing that it is willing to commit to the project financially. As well as being an important part of the sector, OF&G has links to the thousands of organic producers and processors we also need behind us for this funding bid to succeed.”

Any company or producer wishing to support the campaign or pledge money to it should contact Catherine Fookes of Sustain by emailing organics@sustainweb.org.