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UK shoppers pay 89% more for organic food: survey

By Eliot Beer , 28-Jan-2016
Last updated on 28-Jan-2016 at 15:41 GMT2016-01-28T15:41:33Z

“Where there is a price difference, you are paying for the extra care organic farmers place in the environment and on animal welfare, Soil Association policy director Peter Melchett said
“Where there is a price difference, you are paying for the extra care organic farmers place in the environment and on animal welfare, Soil Association policy director Peter Melchett said

UK consumers are paying an 89% premium for organic products at the major supermarkets, according to a survey, while more than half of organic shoppers think they pay too much.

The survey by discount code provider Voucherbox looked at differences in price between organic and non-organic products in the five main UK supermarket chains. Voucherbox found substantial variation in costs, with an average premium across all products and chains of 89% for organic versions of products, and calculates the average consumer would spend £870 more over a year buying organic products.

The supermarket chain with the greatest differential was Asda, which had an average 109% premium, along with the fewest own-brand organic products. Tesco had the lowest difference, with an average 82% premium.

Triple the price for organic veg

Carrots and broccoli had the largest differences in price between organic and non-organic, with both over 200% more expensive. A kilo of organic carrots cost an average of £1.40 (€1.83), compared with just 46p for non-organic, with 335g of organic broccoli costing £1.39 (€1.82), and non-organic 46p (60c).

Coffee had the lowest organic premium, at just over 28%, while organic beef and bananas were around a third more expensive than their non-organic versions.

Shane Forster, UK country manager for Voucherbox, said: “The overall additional cost for these items alone is more than you would pay for a weekend health retreat, or a week-long all-inclusive holiday. Our breakdown is also useful for consumers looking to work out what items they feel are worth spending extra amounts on in order to go organic."

Discounters offer hope?

When asked to comment on the survey’s findings, Soil Association policy director Peter Melchett said: “Organic isn’t always more expensive; sometimes supermarket own brand organic is often cheaper than non-organic brands – you may be surprised how competitive some items are. Meanwhile, discounters like Aldi and Lidl are also introducing more organic lines.

Where there is a price difference, you are paying for the extra care organic farmers place in the environment and on animal welfare. Animals are at the centre of organic practices – standards aim to give animals as natural a life as possible and be able to fully express their innate behaviours by requiring that they are genuinely free-range whenever the weather permits,” he added.

In terms of animal products, free-range eggs had the highest premium at 112% – but porridge (130%), bread (185%), broccoli and carrots all had higher price differences. The next highest animal products by premium were milk (89%), butter (79%) and chicken breasts (76%).

The Voucherbox study did not cover products from Aldi or Lidl, and both firms declined to comment on their organic pricing policies. From information on Aldi’s website, a box of six free-range eggs had a mark-up of 37% over non-free-range eggs, while the only organic cheddar available had a 56% price premium over a roughly comparable product.

A Mintel survey from 2015 found a strong perception that organic food costs too much, with 54% of shoppers who bought organic products saying they were too expensive to buy regularly. In comparison only 36% said Fair Trade products were too expensive to buy regularly.

Older Mintel data showed a decline among UK shoppers who agreed it was worth paying more for organic food, from 30.7% in 2008 to 23.5% in 2012. Also in 2012, 76% of surveyed shoppers agreed organic food was overpriced, with only 5% disagreeing. 

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