UK sales of organic goods soar by 7% in 2016

Kelsi Farrington

The value of the UK’s organic market – which is in its fifth year of growth – now tops £2bn. While sales of non-organic items declined in 2016, sales of organic produce increased by seven per cent

The UK’s appetite for pesticide-free produce is on the rise according to a Soil Association report released today. Sales of organic produce increased in the UK by 7.1 per cent from 2015 to 2016, meaning the market is now worth £2.09bn.

Organic items now account for 1.5 per cent of the total UK food and drink market, according to the Soil Association, a food and farming charity and organic certification body. Supermarket sales of organic produce were up 6.2 per cent in 2016 while independent retailers saw sales of organic produce jump by 6.3 per cent.

“It’s a positive time for organic as it ticks lots of boxes for consumers,” said Clare McDermott, business development director at Soil Association Certification.

We’re seeing consumers choose organic as a shortcut to a healthy lifestyle and this will continue

“Organic is extremely relevant for trends towards eating better food, knowing where your food comes from, avoiding pesticides or antibiotics and ‘free from’ diets. Increasingly, we’re seeing consumers choose organic as a shortcut to a healthy lifestyle and this will continue. Despite uncertainty around Brexit for us all, it brings lots of opportunities too – particularly for export for British organic and more product innovation.”

Sales of organic products through home delivery increased by 10.5 per cent in 2016. Image: Soil Association

Sales of organic products through home delivery increased by 10.5 per cent in 2016. Image: Soil Association

Research suggests that 39 per cent of UK shoppers now buy organic food on a weekly basis. The availability and variety of organic products in supermarkets is also improving with organic poultry, fruit, vegetables, milk and eggs, oils and home baking seeing significant increases in sales. High street chains such as McDonalds, Jamie’s Italian, Nando’s and Pret now include some organic products on their menus.


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“The organic market is in strong growth which is predicted to continue this year,” said Jeff Hodgson from Tesco. “Organic food is becoming more important to more customers as we see new customers entering the market and existing organic shoppers increasing the size of their organic basket.”

Today’s report also noted that British organic produce is highly regarded around the world – particularly in east Asia, the US and Europe. Now taking a share of around four per cent of the global organic market, the UK is beginning to catch up with other nations. More than half of Soil Association certified licensees, the body reports, are exporting their British organic goods, to a total tune of £250m per year.

And the increased demand brings with it new opportunities for farmers, say Soil Association representatives. The body saw a 13.5 per cent increase in applications for certification from processors and producers in 2016.

Organic methods are well placed for both environmental and financial sustainability

Triodos Bank, a specialist lender to sustainable businesses including organic farmers, producers, processors and retailers, helped fund the report. Simon Crichton, food, farming and trade team manager at Triodos, said: “We helped farmers to finance 1,185 hectares of additional organic land in 2016, a threefold increase on the previous year. Dairy is doing well, as are those who have direct relationships with consumers, whose confidence in organic has increased.”

He acknowledged the current uncertainty around Brexit particularly in terms of the future of support payments for farmers, but said that agriculture has “always had to take a long term view”.

“Organic methods are well placed for both environmental and financial sustainability.”

Image: Soil Association


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