This month, Somerset based Organic Herb Trading celebrates 40 years of growing, sourcing and supplying the UK’s largest range of high-quality botanicals for a diverse range of customers in the herbal tea, food, skincare and medicinal markets around the world, including iconic names such as Pukka Herbs, Neal’s Yard Remedies, and Riverford.
Founded in 1982 by organic luminary Mike Brook, the business was founded as Hambleden Herbs in the picturesque Thames Valley village of Hambleden, where Brook began growing herbs in a field near his home. Quickly realising that he wouldn’t be able to meet fast-growing demand for organic herbs, he began his search for products abroad, and steadily built up a large portfolio of suppliers around the world – some of whom the company still sources from today.
‘It was exciting working with Mike, growing our organic businesses alongside each other since the start of Neal’s Yard Remedies in 1981,” comments NYR founder Romy Fraser. “As our sales increased, so did Mike’s, he would grow more and we’d buy more – both in quantity and variety. He was by far the best herb supplier in the market. We’ve remained friends ever since as we are both passionate about the quality of the plant material as well as the issues of fair trading and the environment. I have a lot of admiration for Mike and Organic Herb Trading. He has led the company and allowed it to become a leading herbal business based on good ethics and integrity. He’s got a great team around him, and I believe Organic Herb Trading is set to be an example of good and responsible business for the future.”
“As our sales increased, so did Mike’s, he would grow more and we’d buy more – both in quantity and variety. He was by far the best herb supplier in the market”Romy Fraser, founder, Neal’s Yard Remedies
As the business grew, Hambleden Herbs launched its own ranges of prepacked organic herbal teas and culinary spices, the first organic products of their kind to ever be available in the UK. In order to support the growing demands for space and production facilities, Mike book and his family relocated in 1994 to a farm in Somerset – still home to the business today. It renamed its bulk trading division to The Organic Herb Trading Company in 2000, and sold the Hambleden Herbs retail brand four years later.
Brook and his team continued to pave the way for organic herbs, spices and botanicals in the UK market, and now source and supply over 500 products, from more than 60 countries around the world from suppliers with whom they have built longstanding, mutually beneficial relationships. As a trailblazer in the industry, Brook led the way for introducing new products to the UK, including bringing organic cocoa powder to the market for the first time in 1999. The company’s customers, based in the UK and worldwide, range from individual herbal practitioners to the most respected global organic brands including Yeo Valley, Pukka Herbs, Neal’s Yard Remedies and Riverford Organics. Its commitment to fair and ethical sourcing policies and high-quality ingredients, means that its product integrity and authenticity remain at the core of the business, and working closely with suppliers at source to maintain these high standards is integral.
“Mike Brook and Organic Herb Trading are the organic herb pioneers in the UK,” says Sebastian Pole, co-founder & herbal director, Pukka Herbs. “It has been one of the most rewarding aspects of growing Pukka Herbs to have worked so closely with the amazing team at Organic Herb Trading on the matters that matter most; high quality herbs, fair trading practices and ensuring a regenerative, organic approach to all farming and wild harvesting. Cheers! I raise my cup of tea to you!”.
Now with manufacturing, export, NPD and consultancy services embedded in the company thanks to its team of experts, Organic Herb Trading continues to hold its position as one of the most highly regarded businesses in the industry, and one of the few that remains under the private ownership of its founders. There are new and exciting developments for the future of Organic Herb Trading, and the company is entering the next 40 years of business with optimism and enthusiasm for maintaining and amplifying its position in the organic market.
Commenting on reaching this year’s milestone anniversary, Mike Brook said: “I feel extremely fortunate to have a working life associated with plants, the people that produce them, and all those in the supply chain who have supported our activities over the last 40 years.
“I founded the business out of a passion to bring high-quality, ethically sourced organic herbs to the UK market, which remains the focus for everything we do today”Mike Brook
“I founded the business out of a passion to bring high-quality, ethically sourced organic herbs to the UK market, which remains the focus for everything we do today. There persist many challenges, however, perhaps the most pressing being the negative impact of travelling round the world to find products that meet our criteria of quality and sustainable management – whilst many plants will not grow here in a temperate climate, there are plenty that will; it is my hope that over the next 10 years, UK farmers will rise to the challenge to create an indigenous herb industry.”
Main image: Organic Herb Trading herb field, Milverton, Somerset. Jason Ingram Photography