Soil Association highlights growing ecological concerns of UK consumers, urging retailers to promote the connection between organics and sustainability
According to the latest data from NielsenIQ, released at last week’s Soil Association Certification Trade Conference, the organic market in the UK grew by 6.5 per cent in the year to 25 September.
This contrasts with non-organic food sales, which have slowed significantly since the peak experienced during lockdown.
“The trend for more sustainable and healthier organic foods, which rocketed during the pandemic has persisted and now the supermarkets are also enjoying a surge in demand for organic,” the Soil Association stated.
“Online organic sales have continued their strong growth up 33 per cent, while supermarkets, which accounted for 13 per ent of total sales of organics two years ago before the pandemic, have seen their share of total organic sales rise to 22 per cent.”
Clare McDermott, Soil Association Certification’s business development director, commented: “Organic sales have shown phenomenal resilience after the unprecedented growth they saw in 2020 at 12.6 per cent. Despite a significant slowing of retail sales overall, the organic market has maintained its strong performance with growth at 6.5 per cent in the year to September. Post lockdown there has been the expected shift back to hospitality with non-organic food sales stalling as consumers look to eat out and stay out.”
The main reasons given by consumers for buying organic – that they are pesticide-free, better for the environment and perceived to be of better quality – have all reportedly increased in importance for shoppers.
"Consumers are now willing to spend more on organic food in supermarkets and they are demanding ever greater choices and variety across most categories," the Soil Association stated.
Covid-19 and the climate emergency have also increased consumers' focus on sustainability. Findings from Organic Shopper Research 2021 showed that 71 per cent of respondents have become more concerned about the environment.
The Soil Association called on retailers to help consumers make the connection between sustainability and organic products in order to drive sales.
It also identified three big opportunities to grow organic sales: the widening assortment from online retailers, different pack sizes increasing purchase frequency and greater choice across organic categories boosting overall spend.
“After the challenging couple of years we have all had to endure, the organic market has proved that it is robust and that today’s consumers are demanding more varied ranges of sustainable products across all categories which offer them significant benefits above non-organic alternatives,” said McDermott.
“The latest surge in organic sales proves that the British public want food produced with more, not less, care for the environment and animal welfare,” she added. “Insights show that shoppers are searching out higher welfare products that are produced with the environment in mind and want to support British farmers. We should be looking to deliver more of the benefits that agroecological farming, like organic, can provide for wildlife, soils, people and climate.”
Key findings from Organic Shopper Research 2021:
• 79 per cent say they are increasingly worried about the natural world and our impact on it
• 81 per cent are worried about excess packaging and waste materials
• 86 per cent would like their food to be produced in a more natural way without excess processing and chemicals
• 84 per cent say trust in food manufacturers and retailers is really important to them
• 77 per cent say they want to make more sustainable choices in the products they buy
• 71 per cent want to make more ethical choices in the products they buy
Main reasons for buying organic – that they are pesticide-free, better for the environment and perceived to be of better quality