15 facts on how trends are driving the organic market

A new report from the Soil Association shows the rise of the consumer conscience is influencing the growth of organic food sales.

11 February 2019
image credit: Getty Images

  • The UK’s organic market is now worth £2.33bn after a 5.3% growth in sales in 2018.
  • Following seven consecutive years of growth, this means that almost £45m is spent on organic a week.
  • Organic accounts for 1.5% of the overall food and drink market in the UK and is expected to be worth £2.5bn by 2020.
  • Home delivery of organic, through online and box schemes, was the fastest-growing route to market in 2018, with sales increasing by 14.2%. This channel now accounts for 14% of all organic sales and is on target to make up a quarter of all sales of organic in the UK by 2023.
  • Supermarket sales of organic, excluding discounters, increased by 3.3% last year. Organic products also account for 12% of online grocery sales.
  • According to Kantar Worldpanel, Aldi and Lidl have more than 5% share of the UK organic market, higher even than Marks & Spencer, even though they only stock a small range of core everyday lines. Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Tesco have around 23% share of the organic market each. The discount supermarket share of the market could reach 10% in the next five years, predicted the Soil Association.
  • Independent retailers saw sales increase by 6.2%, buoyed by healthy and hyper-local shopping habits and wider organic ranges from wholesalers.
  • Categories that are driving growth include chilled convenience, such as tofu and fresh vegetarian products, which saw sales grow by over 25%.
  • Canned and packaged grocery sales also grew by 6.1% and include non-dairy milks, vegetarian and vegan options, snacks such as energy bars with protein claims, cereals and toppings like porridge and granola, dry nuts and nut butters.
  • Sales of fresh fruit, salad and vegetables increased by approximately £15m during the year. Over 15% of total sales of carrots are organic, while bananas represent 9.4%, milk encompasses 5.8% and eggs take up 7.8%.
  • Dairy sales grew by 1.9%, confectionery by 2.3% and frozen by 3.7%.
  • Organic sales into foodservice grew almost 8% to £90.9m as demand from high street restaurants increased in response to diners looking for sustainable options.
  • The latest statistics from Defra (covering 2017) show that the amount of organic-certified land has increased by 1.9% – the first rise since 2008. Changes to consumer diets are affecting what organic farmers grow in the UK, with more growing plant-based proteins like peas and beans. The industry is also exploring how they can farm more grains like quinoa, said the Soil Association.
  • Land in conversion also increased by nearly 30%, a third consecutive year of growth. The Soil Association expects this to continue, as post-Brexit consumer demand for products from UK producers and sustainable agroecological systems could rise.
  • Nearly half of organic businesses involved in export are exporting ambient grocery products, while 41% of licensees said this channel represented more than a quarter of their business.


“Organic is in the right place to capitalise on many of the consumer trends we’re currently seeing across retail. We know that more shoppers are looking to purchase sustainable products to reduce their impact on the planet, and this has combined with an increasing value being placed on transparency and traceability in the food system, more local and online shopping, and increasing interest in healthy options – where organic is often seen as a signpost to healthy choice,” said Clare McDermott, business development director of Soil Association Certification.

“Because organic is legally certified, shoppers can trust that the food they are buying has been produced with the utmost care for the environment, animals and land, as well as being fully traceable. It’s encouraging that, despite uncertainties in the wider food and drink and non-foods sectors, more and more shoppers are turning to the organic symbol as one they can trust to deliver many of the assurances – environmental, nutritional and ethical – that they are looking for.”

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