UK organic market returns to growth

Organic vegetable display at Daylesford

Soil Association 2014 Organic Market Report shows return to growth in the UK organic Market

After the encouraging news from earlier in the year, the report confirms that in 2013 for first time since 2008, the organic market has returned to growth. The total organic market grew by 2.8% in 2013 compared to the year before and was valued at £1.79billion. Organic sales are growing slightly ahead of the overall grocery sales for 2013, which finished the year at around +2.1%.

All sales channels have returned to growth, but growth was strongest in those outlets where organic shoppers can find a good range of organic products, such as independent retailers (+6.9%), online sales and box schemes (in +11%) and catering (+10). Overall sales in supermarkets increased by 1.2%, but there are clear differences in the sector. Sainsbury’s – now the UK’s biggest organic retailer with 29% market share – saw a 7% increase in on-label organic sale. Waitrose saw its organic sales increase by 6.5% whereas the on-line retailers Ocado grew its organic sales by 10.4%. According to the Soil Association this indicates that other supermarkets are yet to capitalise on increasing consumer demand for organic.

The breakdown by product category is only available for sales in multiple retailers. Growth was seen in dairy (+4.4%), in vegetables (+3.4%) but the total fruit and veg category fell by 0.5%. partly attributed to adverse weather conditions for some salad crops. Sales for meat, fish and poultry grew by 2.2%.

Confidence is returning to the sales of organic food and growth is expected to continue in 2014, but the same cannot yet be said for organic production. Defra figures for the end of 2012 show organic land falling compared with the year before in all four parts of the UK, data for 2013 are not year available. ORC data from a small producer survey in England show that confidence appears to be slowly returning among producer, but about 3% of respondents stated that intend to leave the organic sector in the coming year. The Welsh producer survey found that about 20% of producers had withdrawn in 2013. It is hoped that the policy makers will see the opportunity the growing market presents and take the right decisions when planning the new organic support schemes as part of CAP that will build confidence also among those who produce the organic food.

The full report can be downloaded here

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