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How do we drive behaviour change to bring organic to the masses?

How do we drive behaviour change to bring organic to the masses?

What role do brands and policy makers behaviour change and how can the organic industry cut through the noise and greenwash to bring organic to the masses?  

Consumers concerns about diet, health, packaging and sustainability are well known1and as an organic sector, we know that organic has lots of answers to alleviate these worries. But how can brands communicate this more clearly? Win trust and convert more items in shopping baskets to organic?  

We have been asking ourselves the same question. So, we launched our Organic for All vision, a plan to make organic accessible, affordable and available to all. We know there is a latent willingness amongst citizens and customers to consume more sustainably2, but organic is often out of reach, an issue which in the UK is exacerbated by the retail landscape and lack of public procurement support. A key outcome for Organic for All is to enable behaviour change, joining forces with organic stakeholders and consolidating our partnerships, with a focus on promoting policy shifts at the highest levels of government and business. We know there is room for more government support, and for more brands and retailers to do more to nudge consumers towards organic as a solution to their shopping concerns  


A nanny state? Or a nudge in the right direction... 

Behaviour change theories already have a place in our society; government policies often come with a nudging strategy, to ensure citizens are aware of and complying with new laws and guidelines, recently seen on a large scale with the Covid-19 lockdowns throughout 2020-21. 

Speaking at Soil Association Certification’s 2023 Organic Trade Conference, Jake Reynolds, an advisor at The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), says that a government who legislates on health, diet and sustainability is far from being perceived as overprotective or interfering. It is wrong [to say] that the decisions members of the public are making about their diets, about their foods, exist within a vacuum. The reality is we are shaped by the food system around us. I know many governments think it’s politically sensitive to tell people what to eat... but there is a huge public mandate for government to act, and actually it’s politically safe if the government is enabling choices and providing people opportunity to engage. 

"For example, in BIT's work (outlined in our How to Build a Net Zero Society and Menu for Change reports), we find evidence that about 2 in 3 people in the UK support Governments, super markets and restaurants doing more to promote and enable sustainable diets. One of our studies showed that 3 in 4 are not opposed to firmer Government action in the form of taxing unsustainable foods to shift industry and consumer choices." 

So should government be acting in a more substantial way Our Organic for All vision acknowledges that the emphasis must not be placed solely on consumers, who often want to be doing more to improve their diets and soften their ecological impact.  

Jake says, "upstream government policies that shape the system are fundamental and necessary, whether that’s exploring carbon tax or levies on certain food organisations, or putting out dietary guidance recommendations that include organic... or government exploring through research the power that subsidies can have to encourage people from different walks of life to engage with sustainable diets and organic food.”


There are too many choices 

The supermarket can be an overwhelming experience, with many brands and products ostensibly doing the same thing. For retailers and processors, Jake outlines some simple and effective moves when merchandising or packing products for consumption, going back to the very basics of the marketing mix.  

“63% of the general public agree that supermarkets, restaurants and other retailers play a role in encouraging sustainable diets.”.  Simple marketing promotions such as pricing and placement can draw new customers to the market, by catching their eye with a low-cost introduction or an integrated placement, highlighted by BIT alongside other case studies in their Menu for Change report in 2020. Hospitality overall has a huge role to play in increasing the accessibility and availability of organic, simply by offering more organic options.  


Clear visuals are key for consumers who often make incredibly quick decisions. Attractive packaging with clear labelling and symbols, such as the Soil Association organic symbol, which 32% of shoppers currently recognise, communicate the benefits of purchasing that organic product, meaning customers can process information and make informed choices that align with their values. Read more about inciting ethical decision making through communication on the BIT website. 


Communicating value through a brand voice 

If there are actions for government and retailers, what can brands themselves do to shake up the sector? Speaking at the Organic Trade Conference, Rebecca Curtis, Brand Director at Riverford Organic Farmers, discussed the importance of “using the brand voice to shine a light where there should be change”. Within the context of Riverford’s Get Fair About Farming campaign, whilst a legitimate cry for change, the campaign also highlighted Riverford’s commitment to talk to their customers about the true value of food, raise issues affecting the farming sector, and underline where there is unfairness. Rebecca says, “cheap hides stuff; affordability doesn’t necessarily mean cheap, and cheap hides unfair business practices... and I think that’s the role of brands to be able to call that out”.  


Riverford’s campaign and petition was successful; signed by over 100,000 people, the petition was debated in the House of Commons in January 2024 and has since triggered a series of Parliamentary hearings and reviews. In creating disruption, Riverford has stimulated discussion in the sector, and harnessed the support of their loyal customer base. But for Rebecca, delivering actionable campaigns like Get Fair About Farming is also strategically important  “Great brands are able to connect with people at a more emotional level – giving the customer something beyond the more transactional benefits of cheaper prices or convenience. The opportunity for the organic sector is to communicate the more personal benefits; better health, improved sustainability & animal welfare, reducing food, packaging and money waste and providing ways to empower people to create change. There are some very powerful organic brands in the sector who have the influence to activate this.” 


What about greenwash? 

As players in the organic sector, we are all aware of the dangers of greenwashing. Organic is well-placed to combat greenwash; being a regulated space and a legally protected term means organic food products are truly what they claim to be. Transparency, authenticity, and accuracy are key when raising trust from consumers, and as organic brands, these should be simple traits to draw on. Organic certification is awarded only to those companies who can prove organic provenance; whether they are certifying land and vegetables, or a finished product, the entire supply chain must be certified organic. The rigorous certification process delivers many hooks on which to hang your credibility.

The Advertising Standards Authority has recently cracked down on misleading eco-claims, which in the long-term will hugely benefit organic. In the meantime, you can read more about changes to the regulation in Soil Association Certification’s 2024 Organic Market Report. 

Soil Association’s Organic for All vision is a brilliant starting point for agencies and brands to consider their marketing models for the coming yearsOrganic offers all the building blocks for a behaviour change campaign targeted towards groups who are concerned with our collective future. Mike Watkins of NielsenIQ said at our annual Trade Conference that brands should “continue to message that organic has a bigger role to play in ensuring that our food is safe, secure and socially responsible and is also natural and biodiverse. In brief, organic is the answer to much consumer angst, and what an exciting proposal we have for them. 


You can read the highlights of Organic for All's first 6 months; there's still so much to do, and we’d love to work with the organic sector to help develop the plan and uplift work already underway. If you’d like to be involved, get in touch with the team at  


  1. NielsenIQ slides shared at the Soil Association Certification Organic Trade Conference in November 2023
  2. NielsenIQ slides shared at the Soil Association Certification Organic Trade Conference in November 2023