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“Organic can lead the way” – Soil Association annual conference

Around 200 delegates from across the organic industry attended Soil Association Certification’s annual Organic Trade Conference in London in October.

The conference, titled ‘Together we can make a world of difference’, hit an optimistic note for the future of organic and the potential for a united market to resonate with an increasingly “environmentally aware” public.

Opening the conference, Mike Watkins, Head of Retail and Business insight at Nielsen, revealed another year of growth with organic sales at supermarkets up 3.8% (Nielsen) so far in 2019.

Growth in organic sales is now double that of non-organic sales, a trend set to continue as demand for organic increases and shopping demographics change.

Speaking at the conference, Watkins said that the level of growth was “impressive” considering the rate of inflation in 2019 has been low. He added: “There’s growing interest in organic as it’s perceived as good for both individual and planet health. The mood of the nation is changing and there is a willingness to make sustainable changes that wasn’t there a few years ago.

“I expect to see a continued increase in demand for more products that are fresh, less processed and better for the planet and I do believe organic food and drink can lead the way.”

This view was echoed by David Preston from brand agency The Crow Flies, who presented consumer research on changing shopper behaviours conducted for Soil Association Certification in Summer 2019.

The findings confirm that consumer choice is moving from individual-centric to planet-centric decision making, as shoppers are increasingly considering the impacts they can have on the planet, rather than purely what a product can do for them as an individual.

Preston said this presented a good opportunity as when its principles were explained to shoppers, they found them “very compelling” reasons to choose organic – particularly regarding reducing pesticide use and protecting biodiversity, climate and animal welfare.

Clare McDermott, Business Development Director at Soil Association Certification, sees this as a major opportunity for organic businesses which can clearly communicate the proven sustainable benefits of organic.

She said: “The latest sales figures and our research both prove that shoppers are increasingly concerned about where their food comes from and how it is produced. If everyone involved in the organic movement, from retailers to producers, consistently and clearly reinforces the sustainable benefits of organic farming to both people and planet, then we can convert a desire for change into actions that support organic.

“We know that when shoppers hear of all the benefits that organic offers to the planet and wildlife, it becomes a no-brainer.”

Soil Association Certification

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