Organic market in UK now worth £2.2 billion after sixth year of growth

Box of vegetables

Sales of organic for home delivery - including box schemes - grew by 9.5 percent and now account for almost 13 percent of the organic market.

Soil Association
Organic food and drink now makes up 1.5 percent of Britain's shopping baskets after six years of steady growth, according to a Soil Association report published today. BRENDAN MONTAGUE reports

We know shoppers are putting increasing value on trust, transparency and traceability when making their purchasing decisions.

The Soil Association’s 2018 Organic Market Report launched today (7 February 2018) reveals the UK organic market is now worth more than ever at £2.2 billion, growing six percent last year.

The market has now had six years of steady growth, with organic accounting for 1.5 percent of the total UK food and drink market.

Supermarket sales of organic grew by 4.2 percent, while independent retailers increased sales of organic by 9.7 percent and sales of organic  for home delivery, including box schemes, grew by 9.5 percent and now account for almost 13 percent of the organic market.

Rising demand

Clare McDermott, Business Development Director at Soil Association Certification, said: “We know shoppers are putting increasing value on trust, transparency and traceability when making their purchasing decisions.

"Organic delivers on those values and is also increasingly seen as the healthy and ethical choice thanks to mounting evidence of the difference between organic and non-organic, both in terms of nutrition and environmental impact.

"This stamp of assurance will only become more important as understanding of organic increases and we look toward the formation of new trade deals post-Brexit. Encouragingly, shoppers are remaining loyal to UK organic in the face of this, lifted by the assurance and benefits the organic label and Soil Association symbol brings, and we expect the market to continue growing at pace in coming years.”

The rate of growth in independent retail and home delivery has overtaken supermarket sales, and almost 30 percent of all organic sales now take place online or on the high street.

Rose Price, head buyer at Ocado, said: “We know how important organic is to our customers, and that’s why we’ve spent the last year expanding our ranges of organic to meet rising demand.

One million meals

"As a result of a recent Meet the Buyer event, we are hoping to launch over 100 new products during 2018. We see no end to the strong growth in organic, as the market has been buoyed by a new generation of shoppers looking to spend their earnings on food and drink that is not only better for them, but also for animal welfare and the environment.”

The rise of consumer demand is driving increased availability of organic in the foodservice and eating out sector, with sales in 2017 rising 10.2 percent and reaching £84.4 million. The 2017 Out to Lunch report found organic on the menu in twelve of the twenty five restaurant chains visited.

This is double the results from the 2015 study – with Wetherspoons, Strada, Jamie’s Italian and Beefeater among those using organic ingredients.

Spend through the Food for Life Served Here scheme increased by 20 percent to £18 million in 2017, doubling in just two years across schools, hospitals, care homes and visitor attractions.

Beauty products

This is reflected in the growing number of silver and gold Food for Life Served Here awards, requiring a minimum spend on organic. There are currently 187 award holders at silver or gold level, serving more than one million meals every day across the UK.

The Soil Association’s Organic Beauty & Wellbeing Market Report also launches today, revealing that the organic and natural beauty market was worth £75.9 million in 2017, up 24 percent on the previous year, alongside a 25 percent growth for organic textiles.

This growth is driven by rising consumer demand for transparency and trust alongside an increasing interest in wellness which spans food and beauty.  The significance and need for certification for beauty products is becoming ever clearer and COSMOS-certified brands (the Soil Association standard) now number more than 5,000.

This Author

Brendan Montague is editor of The Ecologist. This news article is based on a press release from the Soil Association.

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