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Turnaround for organic sector in UK

By Sarah Hills , 13-Mar-2014

The organic market has seen annual growth for the first time since 2008 in the UK, according to campaign organisation, the Soil Association.

The UK organic sector grew 2.8% in 2013, figures from the Soil Association's (SA) annual "Organic Market Report" show. But it still has some way to catch up with the rest of Europe, where sales grew 25% over the past five years.

The UK organic market is now worth £1.79bn (about €2.14bn), with 2013 sales growing slightly ahead of overall grocery sales - up around 2.1%.

For the first four weeks of this year however, they were up 2.5% - outperforming overall grocery sales, which were down 3.2%.

The report published today, citing figures from Nielsen among other sources, also said those brands carrying the SA logo grew more than 5%.

Meanwhile 45% of organic consumers said they intended to buy more organic fruit and veg in the year ahead and 22% said more organic dairy.

Rob Sexton, CEO of Soil Association Certification, said: "The message to supermarkets and other retailers and organic businesses is clear: if you make organic goods available and promote them well, consumers will respond by continuing to purchase the products they have confidence in.

"Now the priority needs to be ensuring a greater choice of organic produce on shelves.”

Household names such as Yeo Valley Organic, Green & Blacks and Rachel’s Organic were the "most popular organic brands in supermarkets".

Meat, fish and poultry was up 2.2%, vegetables 3.4% and dairy 4.4%. More than 50% of the spending on baby food was organic.

Lapsed shoppers

A survey found the main reasons for choosing organic were that it contains fewer chemicals and pesticides (37%), it is natural and unprocessed (34%) and it’s healthier for me and my family (33%) – last year this was the main reason for consumers choosing organic.

An SA spokeswoman told Foodnavigator.com: "We believe that there are lapsed shoppers coming back into the category - this is assumed due to the increase in organic milk sales (up 5% in 2013): this is often the entry point for new or lapsed shoppers.

"The total grocery figure for organic in supermarkets is £221m and we know that where the products are available as organic options, the consumer buys them."

European trends

Global organic sales in 2013 were €45.8bn with European sales at €21.5bn.

In Europe nearly half of all organic sales are accounted for by Germany (31%) and France (18%), followed by the UK (8%), Italy (8%) and Switzerland (7%).

In 2013, France reported increases of 6.7% and Germany 7.2%. Early reports show that supermarkets in Italy posted an increase of 8.8% for organic products for the first four months of the year.

The highest per capita consumption is in Scandinavian and Alpine countries, with Switzerland and Denmark out in front. Denmark has the highest organic market share worldwide. Organic products comprise 7.6% of its food and drink sales.

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