At a time of UK retail price deflation in the overall carrot category, the lion’s share of Britain’s organic carrot suppliers are embracing the opportunity to add value to their offer and to grow their market participation. Via a new promotional campaign that answers consumer demand for food that is nutritious, sustainable, tasty and exciting, the recently formed British Organic Carrots association believes it can inspire greater purchasing and consumption levels. PBUK investigates the impetus for the marketing push, and what the not-so-humble organic carrot has to offer.
Carrot sales have come under pressure on the UK retail market lately, according to value and volume sales data provided to PBUK by Kantar Worldpanel for organic and non-organic carrots going back the past four years.
“Carrots have experienced a tough run in recent years, as the decline in popularity of the traditional ‘meat and two veg’ meal continues to affect historic fresh produce favourites,” Ed Griffiths, Consumer Insight Director at Kantar Worldpanel tells PBUK.
“The most recent 52-week period [ended 12 August 2018] has been no exception, with the total value of the market [combined non-organic and organic carrots] declining by 1.2%.
“This has been driven by a fall in the number of shoppers purchasing carrots in their weekly shop, and exacerbated by a 1% drop in the average price per kilogramme.”
Griffiths says shopper favour for “new and trendy cuisines” has resulted in sliding shopper numbers for both conventional and organic carrots; causing sales to contract during the past year.
“Organic carrots have also been in decline in the most recent 12 months, although they have shown overall growth in the past five years,” he adds.
One industry representative who accepts carrot prices have fallen is Alistair Winter (left), Head of Commercial-Organics at Produce World Group – whose wholly owned subsidiary RBOragnic together with its growers have launched the British Organic Carrots campaign this season.
“Conventional carrots have been increasingly viewed as an entry point vegetable, and priced accordingly [at retail], which has intensified competition,” Winter explains to PBUK.
“This has resulted in the price of conventional carrots falling to the lowest price they have been for years, with retailers working on lower margins. The price differential between conventional and organic carrots has therefore increased.”
Popularity presents potential
Despite the slowdown in growth attributed to retail price differentials, British Organic Carrots claims its members are still delivering more organic carrots year-on-year to the UK marketplace.
In fact, Winter points out that across the fresh produce department, organic carrots are leading the way in terms of the share they represent within their category.
“Carrots have the highest level of participation in terms of organics than any other category in fresh produce – at 7 per cent of the volume in the category,” he states.
“The growers and Produce World felt there is now an excellent opportunity to grow that participation further.”
The 2018 Organic Market Report from the Soil Association affirms that the carrot has become a hero organic fresh produce item, within a UK organic market that is now worth £2.2 billion after six years of steady growth.
“Fresh produce (fruit, vegetables and salads) is leading the way, holding a 24 per cent share of the UK organic food and drink market and showing a year-on-year growth up 6.5 per cent,” a spokesperson for the organisation explained to PBUK.
The report indicates that organic carrots are among the products that represent the biggest share of their category, confirmed by figures supplied to the Soil Association by Nielsen.
“Some 15.3 per cent of all carrots sold by value in UK food and drink retailers (supermarkets) in 2017 were organic,” the spokesperson notes. “Buyers were shoppers under [the age of] 35, who had spent upwards of £3.1m on organic carrots to the week ending 4 November 2017 (loyalty growth in 2017 up 3.6 per cent).”
Nonetheless, more could, and will, be done to promote the organic carrot category in the UK.
Produce World, which is headquartered in Peterborough, recently carried out consumer research that the firm says showed consumers do not clearly understand the difference between organic and conventional carrots, nor the benefits of buying organic produce.
Attributes to shout about
With that in mind, the six grower members of British Organic Carrots, who supply more than 80 per cent of the UK’s carrot consumption, believe the time is ripe to inspire shoppers to buy and use organic carrots, and to educate consumers about the inherent qualities of organically grown carrots.
“British Organic Carrots is a collection of organic carrot growers working in partnership with Produce World to supply most of the major multiple retailers,” Winter of Produce World points out. “The industry is well-organised and is producing exceptional-quality organic produce.”
Winter says there are a number of reasons why consumers should buy and eat organic carrots, which will all be highlighted in the new campaign being launched this season.
“Organic carrots are better for the environment,” he begins by explaining. “They are grown using using a combination of traditional crop husbandry, married with innovative, modern techniques and technology.”
There are enhanced health benefits of eating organically grown carrots, too, according to Winter, on top of carrots already being a solid source of antioxidants (including beta-carotene), vitamins (A, C, K, B5 and B9/folate), minerals (potassium, iron, copper and manganese) and fibre.
“Organic carrots contain more nutrients and antioxidants,” he claims, referring to a study by Newcastle University that was published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2015.
The study concluded that organic crops are “up to 60 per cent higher in a number of key antioxidants than conventionally grown crops”, which the team of international experts involved said is equivalent to eating between one and two extra portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
“Carrots are a fantastic source of antioxidants, including beta-carotene, a reddish pigment that is turned into vitamin A in the body,” Winter notes.
“Research has linked antioxidants to a reduced risk of diseases such as cardiovascular and neurodegenerative conditions, and certain cancers.
“This study also found substantially lower (48 per cent less) concentrations of the toxic heavy metal cadmium in organic crops,” he continues.
At the time of the study’s release, Newcastle University’s Professor Carlo Leifert, who led the research, stated: “The evidence from this study is overwhelming – that organic food is high in antioxidants and lower in toxic metals and pesticides”.
Added to that, Winter says a recent study by the Organic Trade Board found that 79 per cent of organic buyers agree that “organic produce tastes better."
“We believe organic carrots have an improved flavour attributed to organic production practices and varieties,” he comments.
Moreover, Winter claims British growers who produce organic carrots have another string to their bow, thanks to being at “the forefront” of agricultural production techniques.
“It is a small, dedicated group who share information and work collectively to produce a high-quality organic carrot with excellent flavour,” he explains.
“Organic techniques and innovation are now being adopted in wider conventional agriculture and it is a true melding of the forefront of farming technology with the tried-and-trusted organic production methods going back many decades.”
Activities under way
The British Organic Carrots – Working with Nature promotional campaign gets underway at the end of this month [September], when the majority of activities will roll out, and will continue throughout the season.
“We are focusing on usage with innovative new ideas and recipes for eating organic carrots, as well as highlighting the messages mentioned,” reveals Winter.
“We have an exciting link up with the Landmark Trust (to win holidays via on-pack promotions), new recipes (soon to be revealed), visits to growers for the media, social media activity, a new British Organic Carrots website (to be launched in late September) and work with supermarkets.”
The initiative has the support of chef, recipe creator, author and blogger Kerstin Rodgers, aka MsMarmiteLover, who runs the supper club The Underground Restaurant in London.
“Kerstin is developing exciting recipes and is providing superb imagery for the campaign,” Winter notes. “She is passionate about getting people to eat more fresh produce.”
In October, Rodgers also will host a supper club featuring a dedicated organic carrot menu for journalists and other members of the food industry.
As part of its marketing drive, the British Organic Carrots association is also sharing tips, such as cooking carrots to make the beta-carotene easier for the body to absorb, and facts such as the low GI content of carrots, which is good for diabetics, and means they slowly release sugar into the blood.
Next year, the association will launch a British Organic Carrots cookbook.
As for the crop expectations this year, Winter reports that it has been a difficult growing season because of the seasonal extremes in weather conditions.
“The late winter/early spring of 2018 was very cold, delaying land preparation and planting,” he notes. “This was followed by one of the hottest, driest summers on record putting crops under extreme stress. In some areas, soil temperatures were as high as 50 degrees Celsius.”
As a result, Winter says there have been crop losses and heavily increased costs of production since growers have had to irrigate much more than normal.
“Tonnage will be down on last year, but the actual quality of carrots seems to be excellent,” he says positively. “It is still a little bit too early to finalise numbers.”
Carrots are rich in:
- Vitamin A – which helps the body maintain healthy skin, bone and teeth. It also produces useful pigments in the eye, so carrots really can help you see better!
- Vitamin C – this vitamin helps keep the skin, bones and body cells healthy and promotes healing.
- Vitamin K – needed for blood clotting.
- Vitamin B5 – also known as pantothenic acid, a vital compound that helps the body maintain a healthy digestive system and create red blood cells.
- Folate – which the body uses to make DNA and other important genetic material.
- Potassium – this is essential for cells to work well and maintain a good balance of electrolytes, particularly important for people exercising.
- Iron – a vital part of enabling red blood cells to absorb oxygen and transport it around the body.
- Copper – an essential part of all body cells and tissues, such as red blood cells, and the nervous and immune systems.
- Manganese – plays many roles in the body, including the formation of connective tissue, bones and sex hormones; and the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates.
Source: British Organic Carrots