There are countless ways for farm shops to engage with and grow their customer-base, and the ongoing desire for embracing a healthy lifestyle is a huge opportunity to tap into. Andrew Burton explains.

Not only did we see a change in the way farm shops traded and thought, but we also saw a change in the mindset and demographic of many customers, including their exercise regime, diet and lifestyle.  With gyms closed and mixed outdoor socialising being limited, we saw the regeneration of the ‘healthy minds and healthy living’ mindset, which in turn created a surge in the market for wholesome foods that ticked all the nutrient boxes in terms of vitamins, carbohydrates and protein.

While healthy living isn’t a new concept, 2020 saw customer focus in this area grow significantly, and those businesses who embraced it thrived because of it.

For the customer who enjoys exercise, mindfulness and healthy eating, exploring different wellness practices isn’t just a trend—it is a proven way of coping with the general anxiety of life.  Wellness and wellbeing takes many different forms, and exercise through gardening, and cooking with fresh with local ingredients, either home-grown or locally sourced, is a way of life for many right now.

In my view, UK Farm Shops now have a huge opportunity here, and with their large selection of everyday and alternative food that supports health and wellness already in place, ranging from fresh fruit and veg, lean high quality protein filled meat and in some cases herbal remedies, they already have a healthy living message on hand.

When I work with a business, I imagine a core customer’s requirements to help build a customer proposition.  When considering health and wellbeing, wearing my consultant’s hat, I consider concepts such as a farm shop design that encompasses an apothecary garden, and product ranges that includes health foods, vitamins or aromatherapy products.  We work with some really inventive and fresh builders to design concepts; some of whom are already working on botanical gardens and purpose-built healthy spaces, and when we work with our clients, we try to create bespoke offerings that take in to account their vision and brand values, whilst pushing the boundaries to be ready for the future.

However, we also can focus on stock and assets already in place – often seen as low hanging fruit, which can include:

Food – I’m not talking about everyday, generic food, but food regularly seen promoted in farm shops across the country. This food – often fruit and vegetables, butchery and herbs – can be linked to recipes and health, then thoughtfully merchandised to create a theme.  Highlighting food that is fresh and packed with protein and nutrients is essential. 

It’s worth noting that food can also create a personal gift if it is marketed well, benefiting both the recipient and business.  Additional add on-sales could also include kitchen accessories; cooking utensils or coffee grinders to complete the package.

Gardening –  While not a farm shop regular, this is a great link to ‘grow your own’ healthy food concepts – selected garden product ranges can be excellent exercise essentials, helping customers to build up a sweat in the positive environment that the garden delivers.  The positive effects of gardening on the mind and the body are well documented and it’s easy to create a display built around an exercise and fresh food concept, using seeds, tools, trugs, plants and compost.  This isn’t about being pushed into being a garden centre, but about understanding the customer demographic and providing them with healthy activities, with the farm shop in mind.

Seeds – As with gardening, growing your own produce is a rewarding, mindful pastime.  Through 2020 it has been rediscovered by many customers. 

Immersive experiences – What is more rewarding than planning a cooked-from-scratch meal using fresh new ingredients, with a sensational-tasting end result? 

This is just a handful of ideas, but they show how many options are available to farm shops to help promote good health to their customers  – they simply need explaining.  

I believe that now is the time to communicate with those customers who want or need inspiration to invest in their own health and mind; be it through an eye-catching display and signage, or more effectively a dedicated area for healthy living and recipes.  Whatever steps they take, it’s an opportunity farm shops cannot afford to miss.

Our job is to follow the trends and adapt to them – and this one can be grabbed with both hands!