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UK Organic market hits highest growth level in 15 years

The Soil Association Certification’s Organic Market Report 2021 has revealed the UK’s organic market is now worth £2.79 billion, after a 12.6% growth in sales in 2020. The market has now reached its highest growth rate in 15 years, outperforming growth in the non-organic sector. During 2020 more than £50m per week was spent on organic food and drink.

Soil Association Certification’s annual UK Organic Market Report 2021 reveals:

Finn Cottle, Trade Consultant, Soil Association Certification, said: “The unprecedented crisis of 2020 has brought immense challenges across the entire food supply chain – not least for organic businesses. So, it’s significant that in times of crisis, people are turning to organic products for the assurance of transparency, integrity and quality they provide. Organic is now rightfully recognised as the cornerstone of a resilient food and farming system and a vital part of the solution to the climate, nature and health crises.

“With people spending more time at home preparing and planning meals, many shoppers are also appreciating the incredible range of organic options that are available online, with stand-out growth of 36.2% in this channel. With the organic market growing faster than ever and expected to reach £2.9 billion by the end of 2021, there is a huge opportunity for organic businesses to innovate and continue growing the market.”

While shopping trips became more planned and less frequent, consumers increased interest in good quality and healthy food helped to drive sales of organic. Soil Association Certification research (July 2020) found that people most associate ‘organic’ with safe and fully traceable food with less pesticides, and no genetically modified organisms.

The report reveals stand-out growth in organic via online and home delivery at +36.2%. With almost 1 in 4 organic products purchased online in 2020, the organic online and home delivery channel reached close to £500M, surpassing independent retailer sales for the first time.

Increased interest in online shopping and box schemes both for ease and choice during the pandemic has driven up customer numbers, orders and sales for many operators, substantially strengthening the success of this longstanding organic channel.

The organic market is now on track to reach £2.9 billion by the end of 2021, with many new organic shoppers expected to remain loyal to the sector as they look to support a food and farming system that supports a safe climate, better biodiversity and improved health.

Independent retailers faced mixed fortunes. Whereas several city centre stores closed, high street and community stores experienced huge increases, with citizens choosing to shop locally. Overall this amounted to a +0.9% rise in the organic market through independent retail. Foodservice took a hit due to closures in the private sector, with an overall decline of -23.2%, although sales of organic into public procurement continued at a stable level.

Growth in the organic market was also reported across Beauty and Wellbeing and Textiles. Sales of Soil Association Certification-certified beauty and wellbeing products grew by 13%, to reach a total £120.2 million in 2020. Sales of Soil Association Certification-certified organic textiles grew by 9%, to be worth £49.5 million, despite a 20% decline in global fashion sales in 2020.

Soil Association Certification’s Organic Market Report 2021 is sponsored by Triodos, one of the world's leading sustainable banks.

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