UK Organic market hits highest growth level in 15 years

Released today, Soil Association Certification’s (SAC) Organic Market Report 2021 reveals the UK’s organic market is now worth £2.79 billion, after a 12.6% growth in sales in 2020. The market has now reached its highest growth rate in 15 years, outperforming growth in the non-organic sector.

With people associating ‘organic’ with safe and fully traceable food with less pesticides, and no genetically modified organisms, coinciding with the increased interest in online shopping and box schemes for ease, choice and most importantly knowing where your food has come from, COVID-19 has driven up customer numbers, orders and sales for many operators, with local and sustainable supply chains performing well, substantially strengthening the success of this longstanding organic channel.

The report reveals:

  • Organic market year on year sales growth has reached 6% in 2020, outperforming growth in the non-organic sector
  • This is the highest year on year growth rate in the organic market since 2005, with a 10th consecutive year of growth. The market is on target to reach £2.9B by end of 2021.
  • Total sales of organic hit £2.79 billion, meaning more than £50m per week was spent on organic in 2020, as shopping needs and habits changed dramatically due to the pandemic.
  • Online and home delivery sales fuelled much of the growth in the organic market in 2020, with sales increasing by 2%, meaning this channel to market accounts for almost 25% of the total sales (supermarket online sales are included)
  • Sales of organic items in supermarkets increased by 5%* with many categories showing growth over 20%

Despite the unprecedented situations that have arisen throughout 2020, Sophie Kirk, Senior Business Development Manager, Soil Association Certification, said it’s heartening to see more people support home-grown organic produce.

She added: “There are opportunities for UK organic farmers looking to meet growing consumer demand for sustainable, British food and drink and Government support is available for organic farming through the Countryside Stewardship Scheme. ( https://www.aafarmer.co.uk/news/countryside-stewardship-scheme-2022.html) The Government must continue to invest in farming systems that deliver for climate, nature and health in the transition to ELMs.”

The report shows strong growth in organic supermarket sales at +12.5%*. Organic supermarket categories which experienced increased growth in sales include: produce, which have grown by 15.5%*; meat, fish and poultry, which have grown by 16.8%* and dairy which have grown by 7.7%*. Key organic products that have seen positive sales growth include eggs +17.2%*, beef +30.9%* and carrots +17.2%*.

It goes on to reveal stand-out growth in organic via online and home delivery at +36.2%. With an estimated 1 in 4 organic products purchased online in 2020, the organic online and home delivery channel reached close to £500M, surpassing independent retailer sales.

Wilma Finlay is Managing Director at the Ethical Dairy in Castle Douglas, Scotland, the first commercial dairy in the UK to be following the cow with calf method. She said: “We converted our 350ha dairy farm to organic 20 years ago as part of a long-term project to make our farm more resilient whilst treating land, animals and people with respect. We’ve cut out fertilizers, vaccines and antibiotics, and moved to a 100% pasture based, cow with calf dairy system and have seen huge benefits for animal welfare, soil health and biodiversity.

Four years ago we started processing and selling our own cheese and in 2020 we saw a strong surge in demand for our products, significantly increasing the amount of product sold directly to customers with home delivery accounting for 80% of our business sales. The majority of our market are based in London and we use social media to connect directly with our customers and engage them with our farm story. We are positive about 2021 and will focus on online sales alongside retail.”

The organic market is now on track to reach £2.9 billion by the end of 2021, with many new organic shoppers expected to remain loyal to the sector as they look to back a food and farming system that delivers for climate, nature and health.

The report is free for Soil Association Certification licensees and costs £100+VAT to purchase for non-licensees. For more information please click here.

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