Organic Food – Confirmed as a Trend in the UK!

14th March 2018

In the previous blog I mentioned that at Food Logistica 2018 organics seemed to be a pretty big trend (I got majorly distracted by some organic tulips in the Dutch hall before remembering what products we actually sell..). Well, turns out I was onto something. The Soil Association have released their 2018 Organic Market Report and the numbers are all up, up, up.

The UK organic market is now worth £2.2bn which is a 6% growth on 2017 numbers and organic foodstuffs now represent 1.5% of the total UK food and drink market. Fresh produce  had the highest value growth of all organic sectors with a growth of 6.5% and sales currently at £20m p.a. Dairy, chilled foods and organic wines were the other categories showing good growth.

Tesco and Ocado seem to be the big retail winners with Tesco growing their organic sales by 15% last year and Ocado by 16%. Ocado stock over 3000 organic products as part of their range. This seems to match the Soil Associations findings that online shopping is a big driver for the growth in organic sales with home delivery numbers outperforming sales through traditional retail shops.

Why are people moving to organics now? Consumers vote with their wallets and repeat purchases only happen if a product lives up to what is expected of it, especially if there is a price differential. For more pennies to be spent product performance must feel like excellent value for money. So, I guess we can only conclude that organic products are now doing that, the availability is now much better for organic produce across the year and the product must be matching consumer’s high quality expectations for the whole year as well.

Organics is also linked, at a consumer level, to that other big food trend at the moment – veganism. Companies selling vegan foods are discovering that their consumers prefer organic produce to be used. Fresh produce is definitely in the spotlight either way. In fact, the two are definitely linked at a deeper level, right at farm level.

Organic farming is often criticised as being unsustainable and elitist, it is said that we could never feed the world organically without having to sacrifice a few million people to starvation first. Veganisim would address this by less land being used for livestock. If less land was used for meat production and more people adopted a plant based diet then this oft quoted barrier to organics as staple food wouldn’t be so much of an issue!*

So what is the barrier for organics? Organic farming is lower yielding as batches are often lost to disease or the weather as farmers don’t have the traditional arm of chemical pesticides. Traditionally this has always been rewarded at the till with a higher price. I think we can see though that in the new wave of organic growth the extra margin at the till will be lower and it will really have to be earned. It may actually turn out to be more of an economic, value for money problem that needs a solution before organics can really achieve staple status in our baskets and our diets.

(*It is worth noting here that I am aware I am being flippant here for the sake of neatness and blog post length –  there is an obvious link but there are a lot of changes to infrastructure, government policy etc that would be needed as well. Ahem.)