UK organic market hits £2.33 billion after seventh year of growth

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Published today (6 February), Soil Association Certification’s Organic Market Report reveals the UK’s organic market is now worth £2.33 billion after a 5.3% growth in sales in 2018, well ahead of the non-organic market. 

The figure represents the highest ever value placed on the organic market, following seven consecutive years of growth, and means that almost £45 million is spent on organic a week.

Organic accounts for 1.5% of the overall food and drink market in the United Kingdom and is expected to be worth £2.5 billion by 2020.

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%. This channel now accounts for 14% of all organic sales and is on target to make up a quarter of all sales of organic in the UK by 2023.

In the report, Soil Association Certification identifies changes in shopping habits as drivers of growth, as more shoppers order online knowing that there is a wider choice of organic products available.

Other key areas of growth identified by the report include:

  • Supermarket sales of organic, excluding discounters, increased by 3.3% [Nielsen Scantrack Total Coverage (Supermarkets and Convenience Stores), 52w/e 29th December 2018]
  • Independent retailers saw sales increasing by 6.2%, buoyed by healthy and hyper-local shopping habits and wider organic ranges from wholesalers
  • Organic sales into foodservice grew almost 8% to £90.9 million in 2018, supported by continued interest in Soil Association’s Food For Lifescheme, despite public spending cuts
  • Soil Association Certification licensee sales are up 9%, well ahead of the overall organic market
  • Soil Association Certification certified textile sales increased by 18% in the UK, making the market worth £41.3 million
  • Certified organic and natural beauty product sales grew 14% in 2018, with the market now worth £86.5 million. A separate organic beauty market report will be published by Soil Association Certification on Wednesday 13 February

Across the organic market, categories that continue to drive growth include wines, and 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%. Sales of fresh fruit, salad and vegetables increased by approximately £15 million during the year.

Soil Association Certification, the UK’s largest organic certification body that certifies around 70% of all organic products in the UK, has also attributed growth in the overall organic market to the food trends that are shaping the entire food industry. 

These trends, including the growth in free-from options, alternative choices and healthy eating, have 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.

Clare McDermott, business development director, Soil Association Certification, said: “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. Its 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.”

The increasing consumer demand for organic has meant more farmers going into organic farming. The latest statistics from Defra – covering 2017 – show that the amount of organic certified land has increased by 1.9%, the first rise since 2008.  Land in conversion also increased by nearly 30%, a third consecutive year of growth, and Soil Association Certification expect this to continue, as, post-Brexit, consumer demand for products from UK producers and sustainable agroecological systems could rise.