THE Bristol-based wholefood co-operative Essential Trading has announced record sales as a result of a big increase in the demand for organic food.
The long-established workers' co-op ? which specialises in supplying natural, organic, GMO free and fair trade vegetarian and vegan wholefoods to independent businesses in the UK ? enjoyed a record trading year in 2004 that saw turnover grow by £ 1.7 million and overall sales reach £ 9.9 million.
The co-op's Finance Director, Alain Demontoux, commented: `The explosion in the market for organic products has indeed been astonishing. Over the years, the trade in natural products has become increasingly dominated by organics, surpassing vegetarianism which had been the mainstay of growth in the 1970s and 1980s."
Mr Demontoux believes sales of organic food have increased because people are making much more sophisticated choices about the products they consume, but he also thinks that the trend can be partly attributed to media influence.
He said: "An additional factor to last year's growth was the television programme 'You Are What You Eat' presented by Dr. Gillian McKeith . . . nothing had quite prepared the independent wholefood sector for the reaction as Gillian mentioned many long-stocked staple foods that suddenly became record sellers.
`For example, organic adzuki had long been a staple seller at Essential Trading. Following their mention by Gillian, sales rose from 25 packs per month to 250 in the following month! This phenomenon has become known in the trade as ?The Gillian McKeith Effect'.`
To cope with the soaring demand for its products, Essential Trading has invested in new packaging equipment after recently receiving a loan from ICOF, the loan finance provider to co-operatives and social enterprises.
With 120 employees (73 are directors), Essential Trading is already the largest workers' co-op in South-West England, but its increase in sales will mean that the company will continue to expand and create new jobs in the area.