Posted: 22/02/2017

Organic sales grow as consumers lose trust in food industry

Organic Isle of Wight tomatoes
Consumers are choosing organic as a ‘a shortcut to a healthy lifestyle’, the Soil Association says

Sales of organic foods through independent stores grew 6.3% in 2016 – fractionally ahead of growth in supermarkets – according to new data from the Soil Association.

The organic certification body’s 2017 Organic Market Report, released on February 21, shows the sector has now grown strongly in the UK for five years. Across all categories and outlets, UK organic sales rose 7.1% in 2016 to reach £2.09 billion.

Soil Association business development Clare McDermott said: “It’s a positive time for organic as it ticks a lot of boxes for consumers.

“Organic is extremely relevant for trends towards eating better food, knowing where your food comes from, avoiding pesticides or antibiotics, and ‘free from’ diets.”

She added: “Increasingly we’re seeing consumers choose organic as a shortcut to a healthy lifestyle.”

Soil Association Organic Market 2017 report
The report says total UK organic sales rose 7.1% last year

In findings that will encourage independent farm shops and delis, the report also points to a “growing mistrust” about the food industry in general from shoppers who are “driven by healthy living and are more interested in where food comes from”.

“They want convenient food but don’t like to compromise on their principles,” it says.

“Consumers see ‘local’ as superior and independent producers as better. They empathise with farmers who are perceived as having a less powerful voice in retail. There’s a rising perception anything mass made can’t be good quality.”

However, with organics still representing only 1.5% of total food sales, the Soil Association says shoppers need to better understand its benefits and to be able to find organic options more easily across all categories. “It is possible to buy organic, but not to shop organic,” it says. “Many everyday products are missing from ranges on-shelf.”

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