Despite growing public concern about 'food miles' and increasing interest in sourcing food as locally as possible, the major supermarkets still dominate sales of organic food in the UK.
Although independent retail sales accounted for £483 million in 2009, over 70% of all organic purchases are still made in the supermarkets. Supermarkets have been a huge driver in the growth of organic food sales over the last decade or so, giving many new customers access to organic food. However, this has inevitably drawn organic food into the conventional food supply chain model, with retailers competing on price, associated pressure on farmgate prices, and a centralised processing and distribution approach found in non-organic food.
The Soil Association has worked hard to optimise the trading relationship between producers, processors and the multiple retailers for the mutual benefit of all involved. A key part of this work is to support producer marketing groups and cooperatives across all farming and growing sectors to create more balance between trading parties - and a viable market for producers who rely on supermarket sales.
Use them - or lose them
Whether you produce beef, sheep, cereals or vegetables, numerous organic cooperative and producer groups are working tirelessly across the UK to provide dedicated, professional, collaborative organic marketing to the national multiple retailers, as well as on a regional basis.
The Soil Association believes that farmers and growers cannot hope to succeed in isolation and that well organised, cooperative marketing approaches can offer farmers and growers many benefits:
- Access to markets via fairer, long term marketing strategies
- Regular market information, as well as practical and technical support to achieve better results
- The opportunity to meet with other local organic producers
- Access to other useful services, supplies and support organisations.