Organic sales hit highest growth rate in 15 years

The UK organic food market has grown at its fastest rate for 15 years, with sales up 12.6% during 2020.

The Soil Association’s annual market report shows UK shoppers spent more than £50m/week on organic food and drink over the 12 months.

Total sales reached £2.79bn – the highest level since 2005.

See also: Why one grower went organic to tackle blackgrass problem

The increase was driven by a rise in online and home delivery sales during lockdown restrictions to control the spread of coronavirus, according to the report.  

Trade through these channels rose by 36.2% year-on-year to £500m in 2020, accounting for more than a quarter of all spending on organic food and drink.

Supermarket sales also increased by an average of 12.5% on 2019 levels, with some food types growing by more than 20%.

Soil Association senior business development manager Sophie Kirk said staple foods such as eggs, cheese, carrots, beef and lamb had been among the categories performing strongly.

Highest increases in organic sales by food type 2020 

  • Meat, fish and poultry 16.8%
  • Beef 30.9%
  • Carrots 17.9%
  • Eggs 17.2%
  • Dairy 7.7%

Sustained growth

Market research suggested shoppers who had switched to organic food during the pandemic would remain loyal to the sector, Ms Kirk said.

With this loyal customer base and a continued increase in sales of organic produce at supermarkets, the report predicts further growth through 2021.

It suggests sales could hit £2.9bn by the end of 2021.

Ms Kirk urged farmers and growers to consider switching to organic production.

But she also called on the government to ensure organic farming is at the heart of its future support policy to encourage more producers into the sector.   

Organic farming meets the demand for sustainable agriculture and provides environmental benefits, Ms Kirk suggested.

“The government must continue to invest in these farming systems that deliver for climate, nature and health in the transition to Environmental Land Management scheme,” she added.

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