Established in 1997, Absolutely Organic is one of the longest-running organic food companies in Ireland. Amanda Allen met the team recently at the launch of their new partnership with Italian organic brand Alce Nero. This article first appeared in the June 2013 edition of Checkout.
Now up and running for 15 years, Absolutely Organic prides itself on its mission to bring fresh local seasonal organic food to Ireland’s consumers. It carries an extensive range of organic food across fresh vegetables and fruit, and across ambient and chilled categories, with all of the company’s food products certified organic.
As well as selling directly to consumers through its website, www.absolutelyorganic.ie, the company also serves the wholesale trade, supplying organic brands to a number of SuperValu and Eurospar stores, independent stores and specialist retail outlets, principally in the greater Dublin area, including Donnybrook Fair and Morton’s of Ranelagh.
The company ethos is all about bringing organic food to the masses, as John Healy, founder and managing director, explains: “Consumers want organic produce, and this is the main issue we want to address. They are calling out for more items to be stocked in shops. Consumers associate organic produce with being the healthier option. They know it’s the healthier option because they are not getting the cocktail of pesticides. Research shows that approximately 70% of people cite the absence of man-made chemicals as their reason for purchasing organic produce, so the demand is out there.”
Organic Still Strong
According to Healy, the change in consumer shopping habits since the beginning of the recession hasn’t had a negative impact on the organic sector, with people now choosier about what they spend their money on. “A lot of people say that because we are in a recession, they don’t want to spend on organic produce any more, but that hasn’t been our experience. People are much more selective about why they buy. They’re looking at labels and they’re looking at price, but what they want to purchase is value, and that is how they see organic. It’s really about value and values, as opposed to price.”
As well as working closely with Irish organic producers (a sector that the company puts €250,000 back into each year), Absolutely Organic also has a number of agency agreements exclusively for Ireland, for Natura Nuova, a range of juices from Italy, Sonett, a household cleaning range from Germany, and, most recently, Alce Nero, a range of Italian pastas, sauces and oils.
Alce Nero was established in the 1970s by two young Italian farmers who wanted to grow food that treated the land and all the creatures that lived on it with respect and compassion. They named their organic farm after the famous Sioux Indian holy man called ‘Black Elk’, whose life and works have inspired many to be at one with nature. Today their company, Alce Nero (‘Black Elk’ in Italian), is the number-one organic food company in Italy. Alce Nero is not only the leading organic brand in Italy, it is also becoming a widely recognised brand worldwide, and, according to the company, is synonymous with ‘delicious and sustainable organic Italian produce’. On top of its range of organic Italian food, Alce Nero also now includes a selection of Fairtrade products from organic cooperatives in South America and the Far East, including tea, coffee, sugar and chocolate.
Exclusively distributed in Ireland by Absolutely Organic, the company is excited to spread the message about its products. “Our customers will buy Alce Nero products, not just because they are organic, but also because they are authentically Italian, they taste great and are attractively priced. I have been looking for a number of years for a really good, committed organic company, and I fully believe Alce Nero meets that specification,” says Healy. “We really connected with their philosophy that man and earth are intrinsically linked, and we feel that this message will resonate with our customers as well.”
Another plus point for Alce Nero is that its growers are the company stakeholders, giving it a direct link back to the land, so what’s good for the grower is ultimately what’s good for the company. “It’s these values and passion for the land that we think more and more people, including those in Ireland, are looking for,” says Healy. “We want to make organic accessible through products, labels and messages that people can relate to – it’s not an elite thing, and Alce Nero is helping us achieve that. We are working in partnership, and we really believe we have something different to offer the Irish public. We are striving to do our absolute best, and we are providing service and support through display stands, which we can introduce into shops. We also have marketing materials, can talk special offers and seasonal campaigns, and are really looking to work in partnership for the long term.”
For more information on Absolutely Organic and the Alce Nero brand, contact Absolutely Organic on 01 460 0467.