Sales of organic products fell 5.9% to £1.73 billion in 2010, according to research from the Soil Association.


The Organic Market Report, published on Monday (4 April), showed consumers bought organic products 15 times in 2010, compared to 16 times the previous year.

But the Soil Association has claimed that but the rate of decline slowed significantly throughout the year and the outlook for 2011 is cautiously optimistic.

It said the report highlighted positive signs of resilience and recovery for the organic sector overall.

The biggest success stories were sales of organic beef (up 18%), organic baby food (up 10.3%) and organic textiles (up 7.8%).

But organically managed land decreased by 0.6% to 738,709 hectares and the number of UK organic producers fell by 4.2% to 7,567 in 2010, from a record high of 7,896 the previous year.

Further key findings in the report include:

* Shoppers spend more than £33 million a week on all things organic, and that 86% of households now buy organic products.

* Dairy products and fresh fruit and vegetables are the most popular categories, accounting for 30.5% and 23.2% of sales respectively.

* Sales of a wide range of products started growing again, including butter, yoghurt, beer and cider, herbs and spices, pulses and packet soups.

* Production of organic vegetables and organic milk both fell in 2010 but cereal production is on the increase, buoyed by high grain prices and strong demand for milling wheat.

* Poultry and egg production are set to fall in 2011 because of a combination of faltering consumer demand, high feed prices and the cost implications of impending changes to the EU organic regulations.

* Organic products continue to attract shoppers from across the social spectrum. Those in the more disadvantaged socio-economic groups account for a third of spending overall.