With more people than ever thinking about eating organic, we wanted to get to the root of what it actually means and why it is so important to us here at Clive’s Pies. So, we caught up with Sally Carson and Esther Pearson who are at the helm of our pie-making ship to find out more.
Sally, we’ve all heard the term organic before, but what does it actually mean to Clive’s?
“For me, it’s a way of life”, explains Sally. “For farmers, for producers and for consumers. Clive’s has always been organic and it’s something that is really important to us, but in the 17 years since I took over the business, we’ve faced a lot of challenges. There’s so much that goes into earning and keeping organic status and we’ve faced difficulties with all sorts of things such as manufacturing, supply, shelf life and seasonality. But despite these challenges, organic remains a cornerstone of our business – and in our opinion, is well worth the extra effort. Not having a large number of suppliers can of course prove to be challenging, but it also comes with amazing benefits. Because the market is so small, the relationships are much tighter. There is a huge amount of loyalty, respect and trust.”
Clive’s has been organic for over thirty years. What’s life like as an organic food producer?
“What I really love is that on a day to day basis – everyone you’re working with has the same moral and ethical standpoint in life. So, we get paid really promptly by customers and we pay suppliers way ahead of their terms, because we understand that we’re all in this together. If one of the links in the chain breaks down, the likelihood is it will negatively affect somebody. So, I love that this ethical culture is really engrained – people who supply organic, people who produce organic and people who buy organic. It’s a really lovely place to be.”
Will Clive’s always be organic?
“We will never waiver from being organic. People have questioned us in the past, saying that people don’t appreciate organic and the work that goes into it. Asking why we bother spending the extra time, effort and money to be organic, but we stick true to it. It’s really important to us. It was important to Clive, who started the business over thirty years ago, and it has continued and is part of everything we do. It’s about trust, traceability, transparency and ethical living. That’s never going to go. Looking ahead, we want to get more people to be aware of vegan, organic, naturally produced food. The more of us that become aware of what’s out there and the impact it can make, the better it will be for our health and the health of our planet.
Esther, why is organic fruit and veg so much better?
“Organic food is produced with minimal pesticides. So, whilst we’re all too familiar with chlorinated chicken and the public uproar around this, very few of us take notice of the chemicals sprayed on the fruit and vegetables we eat. This can be anything from harmful pesticides and processing aides, to additives and preservatives aimed at making our food more ‘sanitised’. If food is organic – these are all minimised and controlled to be better for you. And thanks to clean label brands, we can really begin to understand what’s going into our food. Clean label means making a product using as few ingredients as possible and making sure those ingredients are items you can recognise and might use at home. With Clive’s, you can turn any packet over and know what the ingredients are. And whenever you buy organic food, you can be assured that the person producing it has gone to great lengths to trace the product, certify it and deal with it in the best way for you and for the planet.”
From a personal standpoint, why do you choose organic?
“There are lots of things in my life that are really difficult to compromise on that are better for the planet”, Esther explains. “Like driving a car. I use public transport whenever I can but living rurally means it would be hard to eliminate driving completely. When it comes to what I eat though, choosing organic is easy. I realised the impact I could make being vegan, eating organic wherever I can, and it gave me an assurance that I am doing what I can for the planet, my family and for future generations. It’s also really helped simplify life in some ways. I’m very allergic to sulphites and my partner is allergic to citric acid and other additives and preservatives, so what I like about organic food is that organic and clean labelling often live together. So, I can make food choices that feel safer for the food sensitivities that we have in the family and it makes me feel like we’re doing a better thing for our bodies.”
Has the coronavirus pandemic affected sales of organic food?
“Strong evidence is emerging to show that organic food sales growth is outstripping non-organic during the pandemic. This shows that, in an insecure world, we are thinking about our health and connecting our wellbeing with the fuel we are putting into our bodies. We’re seeing people take a real interest in growing and sourcing fresh ingredients, wanting to know exactly where their food is from and for us, as an organic food producer, that’s really exciting. Understanding full the benefits of organic food has been slow to take on, but now more than ever, people are recognising just how valuable it can be when it comes to looking after yourself and the world around you.”
It’s no secret that organic food can be more expensive, why is that?
“Right off the bat it costs us 20% more as a business to be organic. Amongst other things, the cost of ingredients is higher, and we pay for being certified with the Soil Association. But for us it’s about creating delicious food, we know we can trust that’s high quality. We actually did some benchmarking very recently against other vegan pies that are non-organic, and we are as competitive – if not cheaper. Organic doesn’t mean it’s costing the consumer. We do everything we can to make savings in the business elsewhere to make sure its cost effective for the consumer and create as few barriers as possible for choosing organic.
Sally added, “In the organic food market, the price is the price. There isn’t a culture of haggling that you can get conventionally. It’s transparent and people are totally open about pricing, and we are too. People buying pies from us in London will pay the same price as someone buying in Bristol and in Manchester. It’s about transparency and trust. There is a lot of trust in our sector and I really hope that doesn’t change.”
To find out more about our story visit https://www.clivespies.com/our-story/