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Have yourself a merry organic Christmas!

The Soil Association wants to help independent retailers make the most of Christmas with sales of organic products.

Finn Cottle is responsible for trade development at Soil Association Certification

In October, Soil Association Certification hosted its annual Trade Conference for retailers, organic businesses and marketers. Among the updates shared with delegates was news that independent retailers now account for more than 16% of overall organic sales and are a growing part of the market. People want specialist advice when they shop, and independents are still the place to find this expertise.

This good news comes on the back of sales figures in the summer that show the organic market continuing to grow for the seventh consecutive year. Indeed, despite generally slowing food and drink sales, organic continues to thrive. Organic traditionally performs better in Autumn and Winter as hot drinks, warming casseroles and bakes and roasts become more popular at this time of year. So you can expect a strong period for home baking, eggs and store cupboard staples like oils, vinegars and condiments as preparation for Christmas begins in earnest.

Keep on trend this Christmas

Seize the momentum

Soil Association is running a targeted six-week media and digital campaign, reaching shoppers through email, social media, PR and our influencers, driving to our Christmas Hub. Content also includes gift guides, recipes, ‘top swaps’, Christmas hacks, top tips, competitions, blogs, interviews and much more. If you have an idea for a great story, let us know!

We’ll be sharing a digital tool kit containing everything you need to create your own materials this Christmas. Join in the conversation by tagging @SoilAssociation and using the hashtags #chooseorganic and #foodasitshouldbe.

Shoppers ‘trade up’ at Christmas. This is where organic’s association with quality can play into consumers’ desire to indulge themselves and others with festive treats. The good news for organic is that we are also likely to see a boom in sales of organic cosmetics (up 24% last year) and gift items this year, as more shoppers look for sustainable, quality products during Christmas.

Supporting this is likely to be the trend towards top-up shopping. In fact, the average family took over 250 trips to the shops last year, spending less than £20 a time. So, even as the big supermarkets dominate the Christmas ad spend and more lines hit the shelves from new brands, there remains a major role for the independent retailer in the mix this Christmas.

As shoppers’ time gets more squeezed the closer it gets to December 25, the convenience and expertise of the high street independent can really come into its own, so make sure you are well prepared with full availability of your key organic lines this year.


An inescapable trend in retail is health. Servings of food chosen for health reasons are now worth around £20bn, with one in three items purchased being chosen for health reasons. Waitrose’s recently published food and drink report hails the “new vegetarian revolution”, with 45% of vegans and vegetarians surveyed saying they switched their diets because they believe it is healthier for them.

Organic is considered a clear signpost to a healthy choice and, coupled with shoppers’ move to convenience and smaller-scale shopping, this is a boon for independent retailers and health stores who continue to be viewed by the public as specialists, particularly when faced with a sea of confusing labels and on-pack claims. As more and more shoppers enter the health food market looking for healthy and sustainable food and health supplements, independents need to take advantage by sharing their expertise and reinforcing that they are the experts.

Sustainable choices

Research by PWC retail analysts concludes (reassuringly) that as we head toward Christmas, sustainable and values-based propositions are more downturn resistant, especially among millennial shoppers. So, even when budgets are squeezed, sustainability is now high up on consumers’ list of priorities. This is perhaps the area that independents can stand out most prominently.

The growing trend to have a sustainable Christmas should be music to our ears, as independent retailers can offer something in this space that big multiples cannot, by telling the stories of their products and celebrating their sustainable credentials, such as traditionally using less packaging, something that is drawing increasing numbers back to their local independent and away from the plastic-filled supermarkets.

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