The type of market research you do is likely to vary depending on how you decide to sell your produce. Organic control bodies like the Soil Association publish annual market reports, which are a good source of information about how the overall market for organic produce is performing. The Soil Association also produces more regular, monthly summaries of the main organic farming market sectors as well as guidance on different routes to market.
If you're planning to sell direct to consumers in your local area, for example through your own farm shop, farmers' markets or box schemes, it's important that you try to establish whether there's enough local demand. Organic produce is typically more expensive and as a result is most commonly bought by more affluent households in the higher social grades. Visiting existing farmers' markets and farm shops should give you some idea of the level of demand in your area and it may highlight any gaps in the market that your produce could fill. You might decide to set up a website to take local orders for boxes.
You might make trade sales to a variety of different customers.
Despite independent retailers and box schemes having grown in significance in recent years, the majority of organic sales are still made by the major supermarket chains. Organic control bodies like the Soil Association strongly encourage individual farmers and growers that want to sell to the supermarkets (or to the large processors that supply the supermarkets) to join producer groups. As well as ensuring you get a better price for your produce, there are other benefits of producer groups like access to regular market information and technical support.
You might also decide to sell to fruit and vegetable wholesalers. While most general fruit and vegetable wholesalers handle a small amount of organic produce, there are also some specialist wholesalers who sell exclusively organic produce. Contact individual wholesalers for an idea of the price you would expect to receive along with any other relevant contract details.
Local retailers and catering businesses
If you are intending to supply to local retailers and catering establishments direct, get in touch with them to find out if they would be willing to take your produce and also what supplying these businesses will actually involve. For example, if you are intending to supply livestock products, you may have to pay to have your animals slaughtered and dressed by an abattoir before selling the meat or carcases to local businesses.
If you are planning to sell a large proportion of your produce through local retailers that already sell organic produce, it may be worthwhile to talk to a few of them in advance to find out which products sell the best. For example, you may establish that mixed boxes of vegetables are very popular, or that some cuts of meat are more commonly purchased and that added value items, such as joints ready for cooking prepared with herbs or a marinade sell very well. This can help you to plan how to add value to your own produce.
Use the Record sheets to help you with this aspect of your market research.