24 April 2014, 14:28 PM
  • The Organic Market Report, published by The Soil Association, has revealed that in 2013 independents led the growth of the organic sector with an increase of 7 per cent (£10m per week)
Organic Surge: Why and What’s Next?

Overall, the organic sector grew by 2.8 per cent – the first increase since 2008. Organic products which carry the Soil Association logo boasted an even larger increase, of over 5 per cent.

Experts suggest that the trend will continue into 2014, judging by the first four weeks of the year seeing a growth of 2.5 per cent. This contrasts with overall grocery sales figures, which decreased by 3.2 per cent.

The increase can be seen across the sector, with meat, fish and dairy seeing a rise of 2.2 per cent, vegetables by 3.4 per cent, and dairy by 4.4 per cent. Baby food is also a popular sector, with 50 per cent of purchases organic.

Rob Sexton, CEO of Soil Association Certification said, “To see the organic market showing such strong signs of growth, particularly when grocery sales as a whole are slowing, shows just how much potential there is in the organic sector. Both the growth in the organic market and the accelerating growth of products carrying the Soil Association logo further highlight the growing public demand for organic and food logos that they can trust.

“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.”

We speak to the experts to find out why and how the organic sector has seen such a boost, and discuss the future of the ethical sector.

Jayne at Infinity Foods said, “I think organic food has become more important to people because of its traceability. Recent scandals with things like horsemeat getting into the meat chain has really led people to think more about where their food is coming from. Although as a vegetarian business we don’t sell meat products, we did notice an upturn in sales of meat alternatives whilst the meat issue was in the news. I think people find the organic symbol reassuring, even if they are unaware of just how stringent organic certification is compared to other forms of food certification. We actively promote organically-grown food and have done for the last 40 years. It was one of our founding ideals to provide food that was a close to its natural state as possible, grown using no chemical fertilizers or pesticides. We feel it is healthier for the consumer and for the environment. To start with organic food was quite hard to find, but now more and more growers and producers are growing and making food products in a conscientious and sustainable manner. There is so much more choice now and the price gap between organic and non certified food is decreasing.”

Finn Cottle at The Soil Association said, “In 2013 the market went up by 2.8 per cent, and it’s getting better every month. Our view is that it was stimulated again by the ‘horsegate’ issues at the beginning of 2013, and what we think happened was that it led to consumers evaluating the food they were buying, where it was coming from, and the trust and integrity around how it was produced. Independent retailers are very strong sellers of organic. Retailers need to realise that organic is not substitutional, and they should offer a comprehensive range. If they want to challenge the supermarkets in the organic game, they need to get a reputation for being a really good place to shop organic by stocking a wide range of products. If a retailer chooses to just dabble in it that’s fine, but retailers who are serious about promoting organic should stock an organic version of most of the products they sell. Retailers should boost their credentials by providing credible ranges and re-listing some of the products they’ve taken off the shelves. Organic cheese, cereals, tea, beer and groceries have strong markets. There are lots of brands available, and retailers need to make sure they’re representing these in-store.”

Andrew Macintosh at Suma said, “It’s been up and down. If you look at the leading categories you’ve got baby food, dairy and meat. Beef in particular went up a huge percentage. We’ve seen a resurgence in things like store cupboard products, and it comes back to things like trust – certainly within the meat industry, as we can’t ignore ‘horsegate’. During the recession, people are not splurging as much on luxury goods but they’re certainly looking after their children. We’ve seen this all along in the organic movement, that consumers are happy to spend more money on their children than on themselves. There’s been a re-emergence of trust; when the public can’t trust the big grocers, they trust organic growers.”

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