Riverford bucks organics downturn as pre-tax profits double to £1.23m
Veg box supplier Riverford Organic Farms has announced its pre-tax profits more than doubled to £1.23 million, following news that the wash-out summer left much of its autumn harvest stricken.
The Buckfastleigh based family business saw its box scheme, home delivery and mail order sales rise by six per cent to £41.8 million in the financial year to April.
Its success has bucked a downturn in the organics sector which saw produce sales via supermarkets fall by five per cent over the year.
Riverford has 40,000 customers on its regular order books.
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Founder Guy Watson said that the company's "uncompromising stance" on both ethics and quality have generated a loyal customer following, with more than half of its sales coming from those shopping with the business for more than five years.
He said: "That shows an extraordinary level of loyalty and support for what we do."
He added that the company's home-delivery sales success over those of supermarket-bought organics reflected a consumer trend which has gained momentum over the past three years, adding: "I think it's our relentless focus and commitment to what we do. Just being organic is not enough. You have to be ethical, local if possible."
In contrast to the multiples, the UK's overall organic box scheme/home delivery and mail order market increased last year by 7.2 per cent to £167, according to the Soil Association.
Riverford, which has four UK farm bases and 253 employees at Wash Farm in Devon, employs 430 workers nationally. It also works with a network of around 30 growers across England, France and Spain.
Earlier this month, Mr Watson reported that summer deluges had halved its potato yields, while its pumpkins, sweetcorn and strawberries have all suffered in a year that has seen spells of both drought and flooding.
He said the disappointing harvest confirmed it was "unquestionably the worst year" since Riverford began 25 years ago.
To cope with the shortfall of potatoes, Riverford has managed to buy in supplies from outside its co-op. "Our reputation for paying our bills came to our rescue in diverting several hundred tonnes otherwise destined for a supermarket," Mr Watson said.
In an update last week, he revealed that this month's relatively dry weather has seen Riverford's root harvest progress well, with winter crops looking good and its lettuce and spinach "rallying."
He said: "There is a feeling that we are over the worst. Bank balances have suffered but sales have been remarkably good, so at least we will not have any problems selling what we have managed to grow."