One of Britain’s biggest organic vegetable processors is confident of a market upturn and is hopeful a new marketing initiative will further boost consumer demand.
William Rose, the managing director of Forres-based Tio, said there were definitive signs that organic produce sales were rising in the wake of a recession that saw demand significantly slump.
“People are a lot more positive about things. Customers are saying good things too. Where we are sitting now it is looking quite favourable,” added Mr Rose.
He said Tio had in the last year seen steady progress, with profits at a “decent level” for the year to end on May 31. But he added: “As we go forward into the next financial year we will do a lot better. We will be putting a lot of focus into marketing.”
The setting up of an Organic Trade Board, which has been given £1.5million by food producers and the European Commission to promote organic produce and rekindle the demand that was lost, will also help.
Mr Rose said the board would be vitally important. It had already engaged some of the most imaginative and creative minds in marketing so it could achieve much more “bang for its buck”.
“We are very hopeful it will have positive effect,” said Mr Rose, who added Tio had put up cash to help the effort.
He added that Tesco – one of its main outlets – had also been excellent in attempting to do more to promote organic to its customers. Tio is working with it on a specific campaign to boost sales.
Mr Rose was speaking as Tio’s annual results were released by Companies House. They showed pre-tax profits of £225,900 on turnover of £10.022million for the year to May 31, 2009, against £144,118 on £10.664million in the previous trading period.
Mr Rose said the figures represented a year in which the business was almost at a standstill because of the recession.
He, however, said the current year had been more exciting as the weakness of sterling against the euro had opened up new export markets for Scottish carrots in Spain and in Germany.
Mr Rose said the Spanish sales were helping one of its suppliers who grew carrots for it when other Scottish supplies are not available. His operations had been hit by bad weather.
The other big innovation that has helped Tio is a new peeling line that it has developed and installed at its Greshop Road base. It has allowed Tio to start supplying the food service market.
The machine is initially being used for ready-to-use packed carrots and which are being marketed as Peeled Carrot Crunchies into hotels and restaurants as well as catering outlets in hospitals and prisons. The crunchies have been shortlisted for a Scottish Food and Drink Excellence Award.
The machine produced a better-looking peeled carrot than conventional equipment. It also resulted in a longer shelf life as the carrots were better cut. The next move is likely to be into swedes.
Tio buys carrots, swedes and potatoes from growers in the north and north-east. Mr Rose also supplies Tio through his own farming operation. Imports are used outside the Scottish season. Mr Rose said the number of staff had risen over the year.