UK organic market tops £2 billion

The Soil Association’s recent 2017 Organic Market Report reveals the UK organic market continues its fifth year of growth and is now worth £2.09 billion. Total sales of organic products increased by 7.1% in 2016 while non-organic sales continued to decline. Organic represents around 1.5% of the total UK food and drink market.

Key trends highlighted in the report include: supermarket sales of organic have grown by 6.1%; independent retailers have increased sales of organic by 6.3%; sales of organic home delivery have grown by 10.5%; and the organic foodservice market has grown by 19.1%

At a meeting between the English Organic Forum and George Eustice, the minister was able to confirm funding for organic farmers will continue for two more years’ post-Brexit. The window to apply for support in Scotland is currently open and Northern Ireland is also due to open shortly.

The area of farmland in conversion to organic is now slowly beginning to increase after remaining flat or in decline for several years; in 2016 Defra reported the first increase (4.9%) since 2007. Soil Association Certification also reports an increase of 13.5% in the number of farmers applying to become certified. However, the overall amount of organic farmland in the UK continues to decline despite the growing market demand.

Liz Bowles, head of farming at the Soil Association said; “There are good opportunities for organic farmers if you find the right market. British farmers can take confidence in the fact that UK-produced organic products are highly regarded around the world so export is and will continue to play a big part. In addition people are more aware than ever about buying British, and more aware about how their food is produced, which will help increase organic sales in the future.”

Increased consumer demand for organic is coming both in retail and eating out. Here growth is being driven by high street chains like McDonalds and Pret, which are including more organic products on their menus. Plus the foodservice sector is in strong growth (19.1%) with more schools, hospitals and workplaces serving organic food. Demand has been influenced by the Soil Association Food for Life Catering Mark with £15 million spent on organic food – an increase of 66%.

Much of this has been supported by the Catering Mark Supplier Scheme and there has been a significant increase in the number of wholesalers now licenced to supply organic.