The UK’s organic market has recorded its eighth year of growth to now be worth an impressive £2.45bn.
This represents 4.5 per cent growth during 2019 and means some £200m is being spent on organic products in the UK every month. Predictions are that the market will hit £2.5bn by the end of this year.
The news comes from the Soil Association’s annual Organic Market Report, which encouragingly also revealed that organic through independent retailers increased sales by 6.5 per cent, taking it to £406.3m. Furthermore, some 82 per cent of independent shops surveyed said they were focusing on zero waste in their stores. In contrast, supermarket sales of organic (excluding M&S and discounters) increased by 2.5 per cent.
The report noted that investment in new larger independent stores is helping to increase the availability of organic, such as Planet Organic and As Nature Intended. “Other new stores are opening across the UK and traditional health stores and delis are adding to their ranges, according to wholesalers,” the report added.
Brexit was also discussed by the Soil Association, with the report commenting: “UK organic is bucking Brexit uncertainty and low consumer confidence. Figures from Euromonitor show a decline in UK consumer confidence. But Nielsen data shows that organic sales growth is more than double that of non-organic. This suggests that people are still willing to spend more on organic products.
“Core organic categories have had a steady year as they have had to compete with unsustainably low prices on non-organic equivalents. Organic produce and dairy have competed with promotions and lower shelf prices, though sales volume are still holding up. The online market is building strength, increasing sales by an impressive 11.2 per cent. This makes the UK the third largest online buyer of organic in the world, according to the Global ecommerce market ranking report from eShopWorld.”
Other highlights from the annual report included:
- The most popular organic items in the UK shopper’s basket are milk (5.5 per cent), tea (eight per cent), carrots (14 per cent), bananas (9.8 per cent) and yoghurts (7.8 per cent). These are the highest penetration categories for organic.
- Organic wine was 2019’s big organic winner, with sales increasing nearly 50 per cent.
- The biggest growth category for organic was online and home delivery, with sales growing 11.2 per cent.
- Organic poultry and eggs saw sales increase over 12 per cent, despite the rise of veganism and climate concerns causing red meat and dairy sales to fall slightly.
- Away from food and drink, sales of certified organic and natural beauty products grew a remarkable 23 per cent to now be worth £102m, while sales of Soil Association Certification-certified organic textiles increased 10 per cent in 2019.
- Bakery and cakes as a category declined by 8.9 per cent, while baby food and drink was down one per cent and produce down 2.4 per cent.
- The 2019 beauty and wellbeing consumer research found that 56 per cent of people look for logos when they buy beauty and wellbeing products because it allows them to support the causes they care about. Nearly eight out of 10 consumers said they are more likely to buy a beauty product if it says ‘organic’. Another 64 per cent look for products with recyclable packaging, supporting their effort to do the right thing and make a positive choice.
Commenting on the report, Clare McDermott, Business Development Director at Soil Association Certification, said: “With the climate crisis and British farming dominating the headlines, organic is more relevant than ever as a way for shoppers looking for simple choices to reduce their environmental impact. 2019 was another exciting year for organic and 2020 will be a tipping point where organic becomes the go-to choice for shoppers who want to have a sustainable shopping basket.
“Organic certification means people can be sure that what they are buying has been produced to the highest environmental and animal-welfare standards. The remarkable success of organic wine last year is proof that the demand for nature-friendly products is there, and that if retailers stock more organic, shoppers will buy it.”
In terms of who is buying organic, more than 85 per cent of UK adults are now buying organic compared to just under 80 per cent five years ago, with more than four out of 10 (44 per cent) of those aged 18-29 trying to buy organic whenever they can. This compares to 27 per cent of the total population. For this younger age group, wanting products that are better for the environment is the third most popular reason for buying organic.
In her foreword, Soil Association CEO, Helen Browning, commented: “It’s a complicated and uncertain time for all of us involved in food and farming. Brexit, and what will follow in terms of the trading environment and support for farming, is enough to flummox most businesses. On top of this, we have a hugely welcome uplift in awareness of the urgency of the climate challenge, lots of new reports on biodiversity decline, and a constant stream of health messaging.
“People are increasingly looking to organic systems to provide solutions to these challenges. This report shows how environmental and animal welfare concerns are influencing what we choose to eat in and outside the home. It’s not just the public who are interested in a more organic future; policy makers, retailers, farmers and food businesses are all increasingly keen to learn from organic.”
She continued: “So, the good news is, as this report shows, that organic sales continue to grow well ahead of the overall market. And we expect this to continue. But I have no doubt that there are some choppy waters ahead, and everything to play for in terms of engaging policymakers and citizens to ensure that sense prevails!”