Lee Holdstock: Why 2016 is the year of Organic

Lee Holdstock, Trade Association Manager for the Soil Association will be providing advice on going organic in the Business Mentoring Centre at Speciality & Fine Food Fair 2016. Ahead of the Fair, we caught up with him to ask ‘Why Organic?’…

I keep telling people that this is an exciting time for organic, but then organic is always exciting from my perspective. 2016, however, has seen the alignment of some critical factors…

Organic goes back a long way. Research conducted in the 1930’s specifically noted reduced levels of vitamins in fruit associated with increased use of ‘new’ nitrate fertilizers. These were truly pioneering days full of theories and ideas suggesting that healthy soils must logically result in healthy crops and healthy people. It was difficult, however, to make a solid scientific case. As champions of organic, the Soil Association has long believed that our founders were onto to something big.


In February Newcastle University’s meta-analysis concluded that organic milk and meat contain around 50% more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids than non-organic products; 40% more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA); and slightly higher concentrations of iron, vitamin E and some carotenoids.  This following on from ground-breaking research in 2014 which demonstrated equally well that organic fruit and vegetables are also nutritionally different,  containing more key antioxidants, up to 69% in some instances.

Motivations for buying organic have not always been about nutrition. Food scares such as BSE and salmonella really focused consumers’ minds on the food on they served at home, making them ask some tough questions about its origins. Nutritional benefits were still there, but arguably dropped below ‘food you can trust’ on the list. Even though based on very little research and with a highly questionable methodology, the Food Standards Agency’s highly controversial 2008 report on organic food put doubt in consumers’ minds about these benefits. Inevitably the organic market suffered.  

Fast-forward to 2016 and things are looking significantly better. Not only do we have better evidence than ever to support the proposition of the movement’s founders, but this coincides with two other key factors. We also have an organic market, which in stark contrast to the unprecedented deflation in non-organic , is growing strongly (over 5%) alongside  increasing interest from the young ‘millennials’ in food in general. Thanks to Newcastle’s research we can now prove that there is a link between farming methods and nutritional content. They are ready to hear the facts and are increasingly making their needs known through social media, posting endless photos of their nutritious (often green) meals and really sharing the buzz about organic.

The convergence of these factors presents a fantastic opportunity for us to take organic to the next level of accessibility and availability. Perhaps a chance to catch-up with other bigger, faster-growing EU markets. France’s organic market is currently growing at 15%, Sweden’s a staggering 45%. By engaging with these new media savvy and health conscious consumers – be it through digital media, events, campaigns or awards,  we can deliver the unequivocal facts about why organic is a better choice. I’m guessing they’ll react positively.

Soil Association Logo(The Soil Association symbol is the most recognised and trusted organic symbol in the UK and is awarded by Soil Association Certification, the UK’s leading organic food certification business. As well as offering a complete range of certification services, Soil Association Certification is driving the organic market forward by increasing awareness, availability and understanding of  organic products with our trade support and highly engaging and visible consumer campaigns).

Register for Speciality & Fine Food Fair free today and book your 1:1 mentoring session with Lee to find out more.