Organic market remains robust

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“This has been a really difficult period for all retail, and organic sales have suffered along with the rest of the economy. This report describes a very mixed picture as consumers react to the financial crisis. But those consumers who are committed to organic products appear to be staying loyal. This shows the underlying resilience of the organic market, which we believe will grow again once the economy picks up.”
Peter Melchett, Soil Association policy director, commenting on the Soil Association Organic Market Report 2009.

Organic market faces downturn, but committed consumers stay loyal
UK sales of organic products present a mixed picture, according to a major report published by the Soil Association today. Organic food sales have been hit across all sectors, as consumers tighten their belts in the face of the economic downturn. Although overall UK sales of organic products increased by 1.7% in 2008 to over £2.1 billion, this statistic must be seen in the context of overall food price rises rather than sales volume increases.

The Soil Association’s Organic Market Report 2009 shows there has been a sharp fall in sales of certain products, including fruit, bread and bakery products, soft drinks and prepared foodstuffs, although even in these sectors, some brands are bucking the recessionary trend. In tandem there has been dynamic growth in sales of organic food through farmers’ markets where figures increased an estimated 18.6% to £23.7 million last year.

Asda showed the strongest growth of the multiple retailers, increasing sales of organic products by 25% in 2008 and its share of the market from 8% to around 10%. Tesco is still the market leader in terms of value despite a fall in organic sales of 9.9% in 2008. Other smaller areas of organic production such as textiles and health and beauty products have also experienced very significant growth.

Organic shoppers, like all consumers, have been buying fewer premium products and prepared foods, and switching to lower-cost retailers. There is also a focus on cutting waste and cooking from scratch – sales of organic home cooking ingredients increased by a remarkable 13.5% in 2008, while sales of organic prepared foods dropped sharply. The report shows that there is a core of consumers who may be cutting back but are determined to stick to their organic principles.

Peter Melchett, Soil Association policy director, Helen Browning Soil Association Food and Farming Director and Huw Bowles from OMSCo were interviewed on the BBC 4 You & Yours programme.
Read more online: Soil Association Organic Market Report
http://www.soilassociation.org/marketreport
Press release (6 April)

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