Organic food and drink sales rise to record levels in the UK

In a sixth year of consecutive growth, organic sales rose by 6% to a record £2.2bn, driven largely by independent outlets and home deliveries

Sales of organic food and drink in the UK rose by 6% last year to a record £2.2bn, fuelled by strong growth through independent outlets and home delivery which outpaced sales in rival supermarkets.

Almost 30% of all organic sales now take place online or on the high street, according to a new report from Soil Association, the trade body which licenses organic products and promotes organic farming.

In a sixth year of consecutive growth, sales have bounced back after plummeting following the recession. Last year’s £2.2bn figure – up from £2.09bn in 2016 – beats the pre-recession all-time high of £2.1bn in 2008.

The organic market is still dwarfed by the size of the overall food and drink sector – the largest manufacturing segment in the UK and now worth £112bn according to the the Food and Drink Federation. However, non-organic sales edged up by only 2% over the same period, the report says.

Sales of organic products in supermarkets rose by 4.2% to £1.5bn, while independents – delis, fine food stores, health shops, farm shops, farmers’ markets and retailers such as Whole Food Markets and Planet Organic – enjoyed a 9.7% sales jump to £359m. Home delivery services including box schemes saw a jump of 9.5% to £286m.

Consumers are also buying more organic items in non-food categories, snapping up beauty products, where sales rose 24%, and textiles, where sales soared by 25%.

“We know shoppers are putting increasing value on trust, transparency and traceability when making their purchasing decisions,” said Clare McDermott, business development director, Soil Association Certification.

“Organic delivers on those values and is also increasingly seen as the healthy and ethical choice thanks to mounting evidence of the difference between organic and non-organic, both in terms of nutrition and environmental impact. This stamp of assurance will only become more important as understanding of organic increases and we look toward the formation of new trade deals post-Brexit.”

Burgeoning consumer demand is also driving increased availability of organic ranges in the catering and restaurant sector, with sales in 2017 rising 10.2% to reach £84.4m.


Rebecca Smithers Consumer affairs correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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