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The rising tide of organic in the UK

Date Published: 21/02/2017

Organic sales

Organic food sales in the UK have been rising for several years now and this week has seen reports directly from major multiple retailers and the Soil Association all reporting significant sales growth.

The SA report shows a 7.1% growth in the organic food market while Tesco are reporting increases having amounted to 15% in the last twelve months. And with more than a quarter of all UK organic sales going through the tills at Waitrose their figures are showing consecutive annual growth of 5%, the demand for organic is clearly increasing.

The Organic Trade Board in the UK have partnered with Organic Denmark in a promotional campaign aiming to grow organic food and drink in both countries with a spectacular EU fund of over €10 million to grow the organic sector.

OTB chair, Adrian Blackshaw, was this week quoted on issues the industry faces, “Traditionally the two main challenges for customers buying organic are the price and the availability. Over the past decade we have seen this improve across the industry and now the organic market is in a clear growth phase in the UK.”

And this is leading to what many have called, the availability of an organic meal solution across all of the supermarket food categories. According to Tesco, “The popularity of organic food began with fruit and vegetables, but we are now seeing customers exploring areas such as grocery, fish and dairy. So, you can now use organic produce for the whole meal.”

This growth is set against the back drop of the overall grocery sector in the U.K. which has seen contraction over a similar period. What is vital now, however, is that UK organic producers are able to take advantage of this increasing demand. Organic body, OF&G, saw a 38% increase in enquiries last year but that the amount of land across the UK being converted to organic has seen decreases in some areas.

OF&G, who certify over half the organic land in the UK, say it’s vital to have continued support for farmers who choose to put their land into organic production to meet the growing demand. OF&G chief executive, Roger Kerr said, “Farmers who have been certified organic with us for many years are expanding their organic operations and capitalising on the success of UK organic.  There is interest out there in conversion as the level of enquiries indicates but the food sector needs to be offering stronger signals to producers that they are actively looking to secure UK organic produce to satisfy increasing sales in their stores.”

OF&G was one of the sixty Organic Trade Board member companies who have match-funded the campaign, accounting for 70% of the UK organic market. Members include retailers, major brands, processors, independent retailers and wholesalers. In total, £340k per annum has been pledged. The EU match funding of 80% means annual funding will now stand at £1.7m per annum.

Mr Kerr said, “Whatever the outcome of the negotiations with the European Union there is an increasing demand both at home and abroad for organic food. Given the clear evidence it makes economic sense to strengthen support for British farmers and to help both UK food manufacturers and growers produce food in a way that is widely recognised as providing great public benefit and that is clearly taken in very high regard by shoppers.”