Sales of organic have risen 5.3 per cent, the seventh consecutive year of growth, making the market now worth £2.33bn.
That is according to the Soil Association’s annual Organic Market Report, which takes into account sales from 2018, and represents the highest ever value placed on the organic market.
This means that almost £45m is spent on organic a week, now accounting for 1.5 per cent of the overall food and drink market in the UK, expected to be worth £2.5bn by 2020.
Encouragingly, sales in independents are surging, with an increase of 6.2 per cent, buoyed by health and hyper local shopping habits and wider organic ranges from wholesalers.
“As more consumers shop locally and often, the independent organic retail sector is flourishing. Often, an organic shopper’s basket size is more than double the value of someone shopping for non-organic items. Independents offer specialist knowledge, and innovative products and approaches, which appeal to consumers who don’t want to buy traditional choices,” the report noted.
Commenting on the report, Clare McDermott, Business Development Director at Soil Association Certification, explained: “Organic is in the right place to capitalise on many of the consumer trends we’re currently seeing across retail. We know that more shoppers are looking to purchase sustainable products to reduce their impact on the planet, and this has combined with an increasing value being placed on transparency and traceability in the food system, more local and online shopping, and increasing interest in healthy options – where organic is often seen as a signpost to healthy choice.
“Because organic is legally certified, shoppers can trust that the food they are buying has been produced with the utmost care for the environment, animals and land, as well as being fully traceable. It’s encouraging that, despite uncertainties in the wider food and drink and non-foods sectors, more and more shoppers are turning to the organic symbol as one they can trust to deliver many of the assurances – environmental, nutritional and ethical – that they are looking for.”
Other key highlights from the report included Soil Association Certification licensee sales are up nine per cent and certified organic and natural beauty product sales grew 14 per cent in 2018, with the market now worth £86.5m. This represents the eighth year of consecutive growth. Home delivery of organic, through online and box schemes, was the fastest growing route to market in 2018, with an impressive sales growth of 14.2 per cent.
When looking at key product categories, growth is coming from wines, chilled foods, and canned and packaged grocery. Figures show that the chilled convenience sector, including tofu and fresh vegetarian products, saw sales grow by over 25 per cent. Sales of fresh fruit, salad and vegetables increased by approximately £15m during the year. Dairy grew slower, with a 1.9 per cent rise, while beer, wine and spirits proved strong, with 21 per cent growth.
When considering the factors attributed to the growth, Soil Association Certification reported on growth in free from options, alternative choices and healthy eating, combined with a rise in the number of ‘conscious consumers’ making purchasing decisions based on their ethical and environmental principles, to be particularly positive for organic.
“Health is a key motivator for the majority of shoppers, with more consumers considering labels when they decide what to buy. UK consumers are trying out new diets, reducing the amount of meat they eat or not having it at all, and cutting out gluten and dairy,” the report noted. “These consumers are often pre-disposed to buying organic. For example, when new products are labelled ‘free from’ and ‘organic’, it offers double assurance and is a signpost to healthy choices.”
The issue of Brexit was raised, with Helen Browning, Group CEO at the Soil Association, commenting in the report: “There’s no lack of potential for disruption as we slide towards March 2019 with little clarity on Brexit. But it’s not just politics that could be about to turn our world upside down. The rapid rise in vegan and plant-based eating has been the biggest consumer trend this year, with its own risks and opportunities. The meat and dairy debate is a complex one. The Soil Association’s message is ‘less but better’. ‘Better’ is ideally organic, and we would like to see the end of ultra-intensive, grain-based livestock systems, which can be highly polluting, as well as inhumane.”