Future 50: Supermarket deal for plant food pioneers
- Credit: PlantGrow
Norfolk-based PlantGrow has secured a contract to supply its natural plant food to over 300 Sainsbury’s stores across the UK.
PlantGrow was established in by 2016 by husband and wife, Steve and Sarah Suggitt. It is the first company in the UK to manufacturer a completely organic-approved plant food through a renewable energy process.
Rather than using chemicals, peat or animal waste, PlantGrow’s plant food is naturally produced through the process of anaerobic digestion, which breaks down plants, fruit and vegetables to create biogas and a sludgy fibrous residue. This residue can then be used to feed crops and generate electricity – ensuring PlantGrow’s products and manufacturing processes are totally sustainable.
The initial idea for PlantGrow was born in 2006, when Steve was working as a farmer. “I spent 2006 to 2010 in Europe looking at different plants and wanting to bring biogas technology to the UK – but at the time there wasn't any funding or tariffs available on electricity produced through biogas,” said Steve. “When the government opened the gates in 2010, we got planning permission to build our own biogas plant.”
In 2013, Steve replaced all artificial fertilisers on his farm with the naturally-produced substance that is now packaged and sold as PlantGrow. “It was a complete game changer,” he said. “I thought this has got to go to Joe Public, this has got to go to garden centres. So, over the next few years, we kept developing the products and modifying them to suit different plants.”
The new contract with Sainsbury’s follows a deal struck last year with Waitrose, which has seen PlantGrow’s products stocked in 200 of the firm’s stores. The company also supplies Blue Diamond, one of the largest garden centre chains in the UK.
Commenting on the Sainsbury’s deal, sales and marketing director Ashley Day said: “It means an incredible amount to the business. Two or three years ago, we were only selling into the East of England, and a lot of that was through Steve's contacts in the agricultural world. To think we are now in over 300 Sainsbury’s stores across the UK is just phenomenal.”
With only four people in the company, PlantGrow has been strategic with its growth to date – specifically targeting brands that share a similar ethos. “The strategy has been trying to balance where our time is best spent – but equally, and together as a team, slowly approaching brands that are really looking for sustainable or greener products,” said Ashley.
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The business has also focused on educating customers who are looking to take a more sustainable approach to gardening. “We did a lot of market research and found that consumers really wanted to know how they can benefit the planet and be better to wildlife,” said Ashley. “We’ve created a lot of educational blogs and social media content to show customers that there are different ways to do things – and how we could be the solution.”
PlantGrow has worked with experts such as entomologist Dr Ian Bedford to educate customers – while attaining endorsements from bodies including the Soil Association, which approved its products as certified organic, and the Vegan Society.
“It's given consumers that extra confidence in knowing the product they are buying is sustainable, it’s going to help the environment – but just as importantly, it's going to do a good job,” said Ashley.
The company exceeded £1 million in turnover last year and is targeting £3.5-4 million this year, as it looks to attract other well-known retailers such as garden centre chain Dobbies. “There are all sorts of businesses out there that have a goal to introduce greener products,” Ashley concluded. “The door is always open with us.”
For more information, visit www.plantgrow.co.uk