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Better Food Traders Annual Gathering 2024

Better Food Traders Annual Gathering 2024 1Locals out walking their dogs in Epping Forest a couple of Fridays ago, might have been taken aback to stumble across a group of sustainable food retailers and champions having an animated chat in the ‘walking train’ on the way to the Better Food Traders Annual Gathering. 

This year, we gathered at OrganicLea in Hawkwood, on the London/Essex border of Epping Forest. There was such a large number of us, we took up residence in the OrganicLea glasshouse area (where the organisers secretly prayed for rain so we didn’t all boil). As ever, people had travelled from all over the country (shout out to Better Food Traders Annual Gathering 2024 2Manchester Veg Box People, Pennine Cropshare, Organic North, Regather, The Community Farm, Langridge and Apricot Centre for making some of the longest journeys). We were also joined by friends and allies from Sustain, Organic Research Centre, Landworkers Alliance and the Soil Association. 

Highlights included:

*The Business Speed Dating bonanza where people asked everything from ‘What health and safety procedures do you have for packers and drivers?’ to ‘What are the biggest routes-to-market obstacles and how do you suggest we could overcome them?’

*The buzz in the room when we revealed the findings of the Better Food Traders Data Deep Dive: the only report of its kind to assess key metrics from BFT members (such as wages to sales, basket size, marketing effectiveness) against industry ratios. People were intrigued by the idea of assessing their own organisations against these benchmarks, and very supportive of the BFT aim of standardizing data collection and aggregating sustainable food data in a way that has never been done before.

Better Food Traders Annual Gathering 2024 3*Market Insights and a preview of Organic September with Lee Holdstock and Niamh Noone from the Soil Association. Lots of great data on how the organic sector is doing, such as independents seeing even stronger growth in organic than supermarkets, and some interesting examples from the EU. Did you know the most popular ‘entry point’ organic products in the UK are carrots, bananas, milk, yoghurts, tea, eggs, baby food and baby milk? And 22% of all supermarket organic purchases are made online – twice as much as all grocery at 11%.

Better Food Traders Annual Gathering 2024 4*A Business to Business sales session where Growing Communities and OrganicLea talked about the opportunities, strategies and potential pitfalls of expanding sales to local businesses and government – with tips and insights from the extensive experience of BFT members such as Langridge Organics. 

*The site tour of OrganicLea farm including the salad terrace where they grow their star product: a salad bag with 104 different varieties of leaves in one bag (blowing the 30 plants a week for good gut health recommendation out of the water). 

Yet, as ever, it was the things that happened in those in-between-moments that made the day. The laughs, the conversations and the rare opportunity to step away from the daily grind, to reconnect with others and remind ourselves of why we are working in this sector. Witnessing the camaraderie of the OrganicLea team and volunteers. The beautiful flowers, and the lunch prepared fresh that day using produce from the site (and those coconut fig balls…) – a meal where we just had to give the team who had provided for us a round of applause.  

In sum, a homage to nature and good food – grown, harvested, cooked (and sold) with passion and care.

When we asked what people liked about the day, this is what they said:

“I loved today. I’m meeting the team tomorrow and I’m going to tell them what an inspirational day it has been.”

“Interesting, varied content, nice structure to the day.”

“Length of sessions informative but not overwhelming.”

“Food, great location. Good mix of people and organisations.”

“Pace – lots of time for chat/social, which is important for morale.”

“Pretty much everything.”

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