The Truth about Organic | Interview with The Organic Trade Board
This Organic September, we’re talking all about organic food and drink.
We grabbed a brew with Aileen Nicol from the Organic Trade Board to find out what organic really means, what organic farming means for people and planet, and what’s going on this Organic September…
Aileen is the Campaign Director for the Organic Trade Board’s Organic. Feed Your Happy campaign, a 3- year marketing campaign which sets out to help everyone add happiness to the world and their lives by feeding their happy with organic. Before joining the Organic Trade Board, Aileen held senior marketing roles at Organix (a Dorset-based baby food company), within the drinks industry, and in advertising agencies. She moved to Dorset 7 years ago from London, and now lives in a little village surrounded by wildlife. One day she hopes to home some animals on nearby land too!
Who are the Organic Trade Board?
Organic UK started in 2009 after the recession hit the growing organic industry hard and there was recognition across the sector that a visionary organisation with the purpose of collectively bringing the efforts of the whole organic industry together was needed to help reset and refocus for the future of organic in the UK.
We're an independent non-profit membership organisation with over 140 members, and represent the whole spectrum of the organic industry from brands to producers, retailers, and certifiers.
Our vision is to make organic an everyday choice, forever – and we’re on a mission to grow the market for organic in the UK. We aim to connect people and organisations within the sector, so we can collectively grow organic to its potential by creating demand, engaging the trade, influencing organic policy and promoting sustainable supply chains.
Are you up to anything different this Organic September?
We’re running our Organic. Feed Your Happy campaign, which is all about sharing the joy of organic food and drink and celebrating its benefits. You can expect to see lots of advertising, from posters to print, online and across social media. We’ve been working with social influencers this year to help us talk to more people across those channels and this is proving really successful as it’s all about sharing personal experiences and opinions of organic and why it’s important to them, whether
We’ve been working with social influencers this year too, to help us talk to more people across those channels and share personal experiences and opinions of organic and why it’s important to them – whether they’ve recently had children and that’s made them reconsider their food choices, or they’ve have taken up a new fitness regime. This more personal connection is really resonating with people and we’ve seen a positive response in the conversation about organic.
What’s your definition of organic?
Organic is food as it should be. It’s good food that makes us feel good inside, by making a choice for organic we’re making a choice to change our food system for the better. One of my favourite ways to explain how it works is simply to say that Mother Nature cracked it years ago so now all we need to do is choose organic.
Why is organic important?
Organic is a simple shortcut to food you can trust at a time when we’re valuing more where our food comes from, what we’re putting into our bodies, and the impact making it has had on the world around us. As its certified, its traceable from farm to fork and strict rules must be applied at all stages of the food chain.
Organic means reduced exposure to pesticides and antibiotics in what we eat and drink as the routine or preventative use of antibiotics is banned and only a limited number of pesticides are permitted, and their use is severely restricted. Organic also means no GM ingredients or artificial colours or preservatives so when it comes to packaged food we know what we’re getting.
Organic food is also better for the planet – as organic farming works in harmony with nature and protects natural resources like water and soil. Organic farms support up to 50% more wildlife, and animals are free to forage and graze naturally on a GM-free diet and have strict regulations in place for their living conditions.
So, organic is important to different people for many reasons, and that’s why I love it so much as a movement – whether it’s for health and taste, concerns about animal welfare or the wider implications for the future of the environment and all its inhabitants then organic truly delivers across the board.
Do you find there are any misconceptions about organic that you’re trying to correct?
The price can be a barrier that people talk about and while it’s true in some areas that the price will be more for organic it’s not always the case. There can be a sense with any food movement of being part of an exclusive club – but we want organic to feel inclusive to everyone. It’s about making little changes that work for you and your family and celebrating those changes as they will make a big difference to the future of our food.
There’s also more competition out there including box schemes, independent stores and supermarkets offering a wider range of brand and own label which is competitively priced. When you look at the shelves you might be surprised to see the price difference is not what you think it might be. And where there is more of a price difference it’s important to think about whether the true cost of our food is being shown in the price we pay at the till.
How is public attitude to organic changing?
As the trend for health and wellness continues to skyrocket and awareness grows for our impact on the world around us, consumers are becoming increasingly mindful of where their food comes from and how it is produced. I think the conversation about organic has shifted, and our research shows that people are becoming more familiar with the benefits, whether that’s animal welfare, sustainability or quality and taste and the fact that it does deliver to so many personal and broader motivations has helped engage people more widely.
Do you have a favourite organic recipe?
So, I confess I am not the best cook in the world. I wish I had the skills to throw something exciting together off the cuff! I’m very lucky that we work with lots of foodies day to day on the campaign, so I do get lots of inspiration and the chance to try new things. A recent favourite over the summer has been rainbow veggie tacos, made with organic taco shells!
What will you be making for tea tonight?
Tonight’s menu is one of my go to comforts. Thankfully it’s convenient to make, as it’s a little busy here working on the campaign for Organic September! An organic puff pastry tart with pesto, tomatoes, mozzarella and hot peppers served with a salad of baby leaves with a balsamic and organic olive oil dressing washed down with a cold lager. It is the weekend after all! I don’t really do desserts but if I’m still hungry, I’ll have some blackberries, picked right off the hedgerow, and yoghurt. Heaven in a bowl!
If we’ve whetted your appetite for some delicious goodies for Organic September, explore our organic food shop for fair trade and organic food from around the world. Our shelves are bursting with organic cooking ingredients, ethical baking ingredients, and fair trade snacks and nibbles to suit every palette.