When you're running a food business, or thinking of starting one, there will be different certification based on your business needs. One that more and more businesses are opting for is organic certification - it can give your consumers peace of mind about what's in your delicious product.
Psst: got an amazing food or drink business? Our competition Foodpreneur 2017 is open for business - find out more!
Susan Thirakornratch is Co-Founder of One Earth Organics.The brand is on a mission to inspire healthier eating through convenient superfood and botanical blends. They currently have 6 superfood blends and 2 of these are specifically crafted towards children to support their development and immune system. They work with organisations that support small-scale organic agriculture across the world and are actively campaigning for a better food supply system. Support their crowdfunding campaign here.
What businesses would benefit from organic certification?
The organic market is strong and getting stronger - it grew by 7.2% in 2016 whilst the non-organic market fell by 0.6%. It is now worth an estimated £2.09 billion. In addition, all of the big supermarkets as well as independent stores are increasing their organic choice and are keen on stocking new organic lines. This makes it a prime time for organic brands to realize this demand.
If you run a food business it makes sense to go organic, not just because of increasing demand but because of the benefits to health and for the environment too. We chose to get certified by the Soil Association, who are the largest certification body in the UK. They certify food, farming, catering, health and beauty products as well as textiles and now forestry with their FSC mark. So lots of businesses can benefit from going organic!
How do you get certification?
There are lots of ways to apply, but we chose to apply online. They send you information on the standards you need to meet, the record keeping you need and you will be given a certification officer to work with. Then someone will contact you to come out and inspect your premises. You need to be able to show provenance of your entire supply chain and storage facilities, even the packaging material you use. Of course this will differ for different businesses, but this is what we needed as an importer and brand holder.
You will be inspected yearly, and sometimes have spot checks too so make sure you keep your record keeping up to date and inform Soil Association of any changes to your ingredients, suppliers, product lines or place of business.
Why was it important for your business to get organic certification?
The Soil Association symbol is, for us, the benchmark in quality. It’s trusted by consumers and businesses around the world. It really illustrates that our products are the best, chemical free and sustainable- which is what we stand for as a brand.
We are also totally transparent too and by giving Soil Association full disclosure over where our products come from, consumers can feel safe in the knowledge that what they are consuming is not only pure with nutrients intact, but that these ingredients came from a place that looks after their soils, treats animals fairly and provides a decent living wage.
Soil Association can also help in the certification process for other countries, such as Japan and China (great if you want to export your organic products!) so it was also cost-effective and time-saving too.
In addition, One Earth is very supportive of so many of the campaigns that Soil Association is running, that it was just such a good fit for us. All profits from their certification scheme go into these campaigns- such as protecting our soils, empowering farmers in Africa and their Food for Life campaign right here in the UK, which calls for a better food system and better nutrition in schools, hospitals and care homes, making nutritious healthy food available to all.
What was the process like?
The entire process was much easier than I had expected! I thought the process would take months, but once I’d filled out all the paperwork the inspector was really friendly and informative and our certification certificate came through a week later!
What surprised you about the process?
I was really surprised by how friendly our inspector was! I was expecting a very serious inspection officer- but he could not have been more understanding and helpful! I’d just had a baby a few weeks before the inspection and he made the whole process very relaxed.
I was also surprised by how much help the Soil Association gives small businesses like ours. They can help with finding suitable packaging, supply chain issues, trade shows to exporting. They have loads of marketing materials, toolkits, training courses, social media support and advice. We are going to enter the BOOM (Best of Organic Market) awards this year and are looking forward to their yearly Organic September campaign.
They are even helping us to export, we are getting organic certification for us to be able to sell in Japan and we are hoping to travel with them to Hong Kong to attend a trade show there….we never would have thought so much help was available, but it is, and startups need to tap into it!
Any tips for businesses that want to undergo certification?
Firstly would be to keep a record of everything - this includes copies of certificates, invoices, delivery dockets and receipts. It will help you when you make your application.
Secondly, if you were like me, and were wondering if the cost of certification was worth it- IT IS! As a startup I considered saving the £700 fee and spending it on marketing. But I’m so glad I chose to get certified instead. The trust consumers have in the Soil Association logo is enormous- it’s a real seal of quality and sustainability. It means they will pick our product over another who haven’t had the same vigorous quality checks. In addition, the help they give you with marketing and trading alone is worth more than the fee!
Lastly, if you do get certified, get involved! There is a real community feel from all over the organic market, from farmers to retailers to schools proving organic meals. Everyone is really supportive of each other and the importance of organic- so they can all be really helpful for startups!
The information contained in this website is provided for information purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice on any matter. Use of this website is at users own risk and is not intended to create a lawyer-client relationship between Virgin StartUp and any user. Information displayed on this website is provided “as is” and Virgin StartUp does not provide any express or implied warranty or representation concerning the information, including but not limited to the accuracy or appropriateness of the information. Virgin StartUp recommend that users seek their own legal advice before taking (or refraining from) taking any action and do not accept any liability in respect of any actions taken or not taken based on any or all of the information displayed on this website to the fullest extent permitted by law.