UK shoppers pay 89% more for organic food: survey

By Eliot Beer

- Last updated on GMT

“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

Related tags: Wal-mart, Organic farming, Cost

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. 

Related topics: Organics, Market Trends

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