Fresh produce boost as UK organic market hits £2.33 billion after seventh year of growth

Published today (6 February), Soil Association Certification’s Organic Market Report reveals the UK’s organic market is now worth £2.33 billion after a 5.3% growth in sales in 2018, well ahead of the non-organic market.

The figure represents the highest ever value placed on the organic market, following seven consecutive years of growth, and means that almost £45 million is spent on organic a week, with the market expected to be worth £2.5 billion by 2020.

Soil Association Certification, who certify around 70% of organic in the UK, reported a boost to sales of fresh fruit, salad and vegetables of approximately £15 million during the year. This was reflected in an increase in the number of producers of fresh produce – more than one in three new applications to become Soil Association Certification certified producers in the 2017-2018 financial year came from people wanting to produce organic fruit and vegetables.

The rising demand for organic food and drink has seen the land in conversion to organic in the UK rise by 30%, and the amount of total organic land increased by 1.9%, the first rise since 2008. The number of organic processors increased by over 6% and producers by 2% in 2017. DEFRA statistics show that there were 6,586 organic operators in the UK in 2017, up 3.5% since 2016.

Finn Cottle, trade consultant at Soil Association Certification, said: “It’s great to see organic growing in the UK and it’s encouraging that, despite uncertainties in the wider food and drink and non-foods sectors, more and more shoppers are turning to the organic symbol and supporting organic farmers by buying organic produce.

“The opportunities for organic go beyond the farm gate. UK organic has a great reputation on a global scale, so securing the right trade deals post-Brexit could bring huge export potential for organic produce. As more shoppers turn to organic produce at home and abroad, we’re lobbying hard for government to include organic and agroecological approaches to farming in future legislation.”

Key areas of market growth identified by the report include:

  • Home delivery of organic, through online and box schemes, was the fastest growing route to market in 2018, with an impressive sales growth of 14.2%. This channel now accounts for 14% of all organic sales and is on target to make up a quarter of all sales of organic in the UK by 2023.
  • Supermarket salesof organic, excluding discounters, increased by 3.3% [Nielsen Scantrack Total Coverage (Supermarkets and Convenience Stores), 52w/e 29th December 2018]
  • Independent retailers saw sales increasing by 6.2%, buoyed by healthy and hyper-local shopping habits and wider organic ranges from wholesalers
  • Organic sales into foodservicegrew almost 8% to £90.9 million in 2018, supported by continued interest in Soil Association’s Food For Life scheme, despite public spending cuts
  • Soil Association Certification licensee sales are up 9%, well ahead of the overall organic market
  • Soil Association Certification certified textile sales increased by 18% in the UK, making the market worth £41.3 million
  • Organic and natural health and beauty product sales grew 14% in 2018, with the market now worth £86.5 million. A separate organic beauty market report will be published by Soil Association Certification on Wednesday 13 February

Across the organic market, categories that continue to drive growth include wines, and chilled foods; and canned and packaged grocery. Figures show that the chilled convenience sector, including tofu and fresh vegetarian products, saw sales grow by over 25%.


Soil Association Certification has also attributed growth in the overall organic market to the food trends that are shaping the entire food industry.

These trends, including the growth in free-from options, alternative choices and healthy eating, have combined with a rise in the number of ‘conscious consumers’ making purchasing decisions based on their ethical and environmental principles, to be particularly positive for organic.


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About The Author

John Swire - Deputy editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.