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UK demand for organic produce reaches 3 year high

26 Jun 2020
Since January 2020, organic sales in supermarkets have seen the highest growth since December 2016, the latest Nielsen data reveals. Data shows organic food and drink sales year-on-year growth of 6.1% - almost double the growth of non-organic food and drink products (3.2%) for the 52 weeks ending May 30th.

Nielsen data shows an 18.7% increase in organic sales in the 12 weeks ending 30th May, which includes 10 weeks of lockdown, compared to 14.2% increase in non-organic food and drink.

This comes at a time when external events have fast-tracked already changing shopper behaviours towards personal health, transparency and integrity. A YouGov survey commissioned by the Food Farming and Countryside Commission & The Food Foundation revealed 42% people feel the crisis has made them value food more.

These changing behaviours seem set to support the organic sector in exceeding the end of 2020 market value of £2.5billiion projected by Soil Association Certification, with the sector now on track to hit the £2.6billion mark.  

Finn Cottle, Trade Consultant at Soil Association Certification, says; “As this crisis emerged, and food was placed firmly in the spotlight, it became apparent that consumer habits were shifting: from less frequent shopping trips, to supporting local and independent stores, online shopping to receiving weekly deliveries of organic fruit & veg. What seems clear is that at a time when quality and safety are of importance for consumers, organic ‘stands out,’ with its benefits of transparency and integrity.

“Despite the likelihood of tighter budgets, shoppers are choosing quality, good taste, and ethical options. Sustainability and protecting the environment remains high on their wish list – and with so many of us finding nature a vital source of respite in these difficult times - citizens seem to be making more planet-centric choices.

“Organic brands, retailers and businesses have a huge part to play in reinforcing the credentials of organic – as a farming system ‘working with nature’ to restore goodness in the land, with a positive impact on personal health and wellness, and our environment. With more people than ever understanding this connection, I think the sector has a lot to feel confident about.”

Soil Association Certification licensee, Matt Godfroy, founder of Sun fresh and Pikt organic produce boxes comments; “Pikt launched six months before COVID19, with a steady weekly customer base. Overnight, lockdown stopped shopping habits as we knew them; Pikt went from gradual incline of orders to multiple digit growth within two weeks. We've read and heard the future of grocery sales will be online - not until a pandemic occurs does it make you realise it can be a smooth transition and hassle-free shopping experience. Demand for organic fresh produce is more relevant and present than ever before.”

With some fearing lockdown and the emerging economic uncertainty might dampen consumer behaviours, these figures show organic sales are strong.  They also show there is a significant opportunity for organic businesses to keep new customers they’ve reached during lockdown, some of whom may have tried organic products for the first time and realised that they taste great as well as doing good.

This increase in interest and sales in organic coincides with the lead-up to Soil Association Certification’s campaign, Organic September. This year the whole sector will be come together to highlight that one small swap really can make a world of difference and that together, with nature, we can help restore our world. For more information about the campaign and how to get involved, visit Soil Association Certification’s Organic September pages.