Magazine article Marketing

One to Watch: Helen Browning

Magazine article Marketing

One to Watch: Helen Browning

Article excerpt

The pigs enjoy a great view and a la carte food, as befits a company owned by an organic evangelist.

It is the kind of heavy November day that fog lights were made for. In the village of Bishopstone, deep in the Wiltshire countryside, the lanes are eerily quiet. Anyone with any sense is huddled inside a cosy pub or in front of their cottage fireplace.

Eastbrook Farm's herd of 200 sows and their piglets are tucked up too.

They need to be coaxed out of their 'arks', where they live in family groups, for a photograph with the farm's owner, and founder of the eponymous organic meat brand, Helen Browning.

Browning is a true evangelist for organic farming and received an OBE for her efforts in 1998. She is food and farming director at the Soil Association, the organic movement's governing body, and sits on the Food Ethics Council.

Fellow organic disciple Prince Charles has visited Eastbrook. Browning's brand competes with his Duchy Originals line, although Browning says competition is a different force in the organic farming world. 'We're all just trying to expand the market.'

This is the prime motivation behind the evolution of the Helen Browning brand. If more consumers can be persuaded to go organic, more farmers will get involved with organic farming and more animals will benefit from better treatment. As Browning sees it, creating a strong brand that consumers are attracted to is the best way of making organic goods commercially feasible for the farming community.

She put her dream into action shortly after taking over Eastbrook from her father in 1986. Pigs are the easiest species to add value to, so she bought two to start with. Walking through her fields one evening, she spotted a sow with piglets following behind her. 'It struck me that this is what it's all about - allowing the animals the freedom and space to live autonomous lives.'

The image stuck in her mind and 14 years later was her inspiration for the brand identity - a fat pig, drawn in the style of a children's book illustration, set against the night sky. This jolly tone extends to the copy on the packaging and is designed to counter the slightly self-righteous associations of organic food.

A list of the luxuries that the Eastbrook Farm pigs can enjoy includes 'great, changing views, an a la carte menu and a nice vet who calls in once a quarter to check on happiness levels'. Another list reveals that they don't have steaming hot showers, shagpile carpets or mini bars. …

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