Organic food rebound expected in UK

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 13th April 2010

The organic market in the UK is expected to grow by 2-5% in 2010, according to statistics from the UK’s Soil Association.The Organic Market Report 2010 published yesterday showed that despite a near 13% decline in organic sales in 2009, there are clear signs of a revival in the organic market, suggesting that it will return to growth by the end of the year.

Organic milk, baby food and home cooking ingredients were the food categories that resisted the downward trend in sales, with sales increasing by 1%, 20.8% and 1.4% respectively.

And despite a drop in the market, sales of organic food were still more than three times higher than ten years ago and more than 50% higher than five years ago, the association reported.

Dairy products remain the most popular category, accounting for 33% of sales. Fresh fruit and vegetables account for 26%, home cooking ingredients and beverages for 6% each, and red meat for 5%.

Over 60% of the UK’s biggest organic brands are planning for growth in 2010. The Soil Association predicts a market expansion of 2–5%.

“We have come through recessions before, and we shall do so again,” said Peter Melchett, policy director for The Soil Association.

“As this report highlights, in early 2010 organic sales have started to pick up and seem likely to return to growth this year. The Soil Association thinks that there are firm signs of a revival in the organic market, and that there will be a modest growth, of around 2-5%, during 2010.

“Many organic companies continue to show great creativity in maintaining a strong customer base. Sales of organic food are still more than three times what they were in 1999 and over 50% higher than five years ago,” Melchett added.

Among the three supermarkets with the biggest organic market shares – Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose – it was Waitrose that proved the most resilient in the recession. Its organic sales fell by only 3.5% and it is predicting growth of 3-5% in 2010.

“This report points out that organic products continue to attract shoppers from across the social spectrum, with groups that include manual and casual workers, pensioners, students and people on benefits accounting for 33% of spend,” Melchett said.

He added that the industry must now increase research and development funding to support sustainable farming practices from 11% to 50% or more of the UK’s agriculture research budget.

“For its part the organic movement needs to strengthen its collective effort to communicate all the benefits of organic food and farming to the public. We need to rekindle the kind of consumer demand that it will ultimately be impossible for policy makers, and retailers, to ignore,” Melchett said.

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