DIY superstore B&Q has beaten garden centres to a lucrative new sector supplying the rapidly expanding organic vegetable plant market, says Britain’s national organic growing charity.
Garden Organic (formerly HDRA) senior adviser Andy Strachan said: “It’s a very new move. Garden centres have not considered it to be a main part of the market. B&Q has reacted quickly and first.
“This trend is coming off the back of healthy living. People are not only wanting to be organic but are also wanting to grow their own organically. It’s a cultural shift that B&Q has done well to react to so rapidly.”
Supplier Keith Butters’ account manager Pete Lomax, who supplies organic vegetable six- and 12-packs to 300 B&Q branches, said: “Organic vegetables are something different to what garden centres are doing. We get 100 per cent sell-through and we’ve seen growth every year in supplying B&Q with organics. But I can’t tell you where I’m getting it from because he’s only a small grower and everyone will want him — garden centres are thinking about this now because everyone’s talking about it.”
B&Q horticulture category manager Steve Guy said the DIY and gardening chain was now Britain’s biggest organic retailer. He believed selling organic plants “has great potential” and boasted that organic sales are growing at 30-40 per cent a year. This was partly due to TV programmes such as Carol Klein’s BBC hit Grow Your Own Veg — which counted 3.8m viewers last month, beating Celebrity Big Brother — and the trend for young people to take on allotments, featured in the Observer’s new organic allotment series. New B&Q plants include a San Marzano plum tomato, two chillis, six lettuces and eight types of vegetables.
There are 25 vegetables in B&Q’s Soil Association-endorsed organic range, but Guy said the sector was “still tiny for us compared to bedding and hardy plants”.
The HTA does not track organic plant sales but said that since 2002 sales of edible plants and seeds have risen by 20 per cent to £76.8m a year.
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