“We are inspired, simply, by a love of real food, and a desire to be part of the solution to global and local crises in farming and health. We believe everyone has the right to good quality, chemical-free, healthy food, and that organic food production is the best way forward, for people and planet”
Whilst we have reported that ethical spending is growing; the same can be said for organics. The Soil Association’s 2016 Organic Market Report has revealed that the organic market continued to experience steady growth of nearly 5% in 2015. This is the third year of consecutive growth for the UK organic sector, now worth nearly £2 billion.
Despite independent supermarkets only carving out 2.1% of the overall UK grocery store market, both organic and ethical spending growth begs the question – are ethically focussed independent stores ready to make real traction in this sector?
Better Food Company is a retailer and caterer selling organic, local and ethically-sourced food available in Bristol. With both their flagship store and café, and food hall and deli gaining in popularity, the company is a growing independent name in the Bristol area. Having operated from their larger St Werburghs store for 13 years and Clifton store for 6 years, founder Phil Haughton had been involved in his passion of organic farming and retail for over 35 years.
“We are inspired, simply, by a love of real food, and a desire to be part of the solution to global and local crises in farming and health. We believe everyone has the right to good quality, chemical-free, healthy food, and that organic food production is the best way forward, for people and planet” said Phil.
It’s estimated that 75% of the products Better Food Company sells is certified organic and they are looking to expand on that percentage to make organic more accessible – it is the core of their mission. The retailers have cemented their commitment to the organic movement by certification from the Soil Association, which for many Better Food Company customers means that they can have faith in how their food has been sourced.
“Being recognised and trusted as organic food retailers is central to our business objectives, and we sell lines representing every area of grocery retail, from produce to locally sourced meat, to ethically sourced gifts. We’re proud to support dozens of local suppliers from within Bristol and will continue to build on this. Without a route to market, producers’ heroic endeavours would be in vain. Our sourcing policy has recently been updated to reflect this, championing organic and local goods in an effort to build a happy, healthy food community in Bristol.”
So while stores like Better Food Company can appeal to consumers who are already engaged, the opportunity lies in the growing number of people who are beginning to re-examine their relationship with food and products.
“We take our position of being a connection between farmers and consumers seriously, we want to share the great successes and challenges of the organic market and help customers make autonomous decisions.”
“We’ve definitely seen a shift in consumer appetite grow towards shopping sustainably – by shopping at independent stores and making more informed choices about purchases, customers can make their voice heard about the products they want to see more of. Consumers recognise the value of healthy, organic food and are happy to buy items they feel are great quality, especially if this is coupled with a connection to strengthening local food systems.”
Beyond products, how Better Food Company conducts their business is equally as important to Phil. Creating a sustainable local economy extends beyond external business activity, and the people who are a part of Better Food Company play a huge role in their success “”We believe that building a food community is also about taking care of our team. We introduced the Better Food Fair Wage, which exceeds the living wage and offers free lunch and paid breaks. We also offer a paid volunteer day annually for all of our staff; and as our operating profits have grown higher, it shows that investing in both purpose and people does work.”
As these opportunities for business growth are apparent, Better FoodCompany see themselves as intrinsic to a growing movement anchored by choice. Ultimately the growth of other independent stores will create a sustainable income for growers, contributing to a circular, local economy. Whilst Better Food Company may be their name, better understanding is an equally parallel message Phil is fervently spreading.
“We take our position of being a connection between farmers and consumers seriously, we want to share the great successes and challenges of the organic market and help customers make autonomous decisions. To do this, we often organise and host events, including talks and tours – giving customers a chance to meet the dedicated producers we’re proud of, as well as enabling a connection to the land they farm.
We love the work we do and are keen to continue celebrating the positive progress in our local food systems. It is so important to keep this work alive and rolling into the future, so that more and more people can benefit from local food security, access to organic food and being part of a vibrant food community.
“We were really happy to be working with like-minded, ethical parties on this bond offer, and we are delighted it has been fully subscribed. It felt like the right thing to do.”
words: chris yong