New figures released from the Soil Association yesterday reveal steady growth in organic sales since August 2014 whilst sales of non-organic continue to fall (Nielsen, 52 weeks to 15 August 2015). Sales continue to outperform non-organic and the number of new products released with Soil Association Certification show there is confidence in further growth in the sector.
The figures from Nielsen, as presented by Mike Watkins at the Soil Association annual market briefing, show consistent growth in the organic market of +3% in the 52 weeks to 15 August 2015, compared to the continued fall in non-organic sales of -1.2% in the same period. This reveals an annual increase in the growth of sales of organic across the board, which doubles that reported in 2014 (+1.2% in the 52 weeks to August 15 2014 compared with +3% for 2015). Confidence is back in the organic market and Soil Association Certification holders are reporting booming sales in the last few months. The value of organic as sold through supermarkets is now worth over £1.3 million.
Mike Watkins said; “To me it is clear that brands need to look for growth through new channels and to reach out to developing categories, such as alcoholic drinks, confectionary and snacks, that offer the opportunity to capture their customer and create loyalty. Products should be affordable, accessible and achievable.”
The market briefing, part of the Soil Association’s Organic September, was a chance for organic businesses, farmers and retailers to meet and discuss the market. Beth Hart from Sainsbury’s and Ian Nundy from Seeds of Change presented their impressions and plans for the future for the organic sector and Al Overton from Planet Organic also spoke about innovation in organic at the Natural and Organic Products Europe trade show. The variety of attendees, from multiple retailers to brands, independents and farmers, highlighted the wide variety of businesses and channels investing in, and supporting, organic products.
Attendees heard about the huge success of organic on the continent and the recent changes in customer habits – shopping more often in smaller stores and online. Speakers agreed that keeping pace with this change can present a huge opportunity for growth in organic and Beth Hart commented; “The basket size of our organic customer exceeds that of a non-organic shopper which highlights the importance of our SO Organic range.”
Both Nundy and Hart emphasised the importance of values to their businesses and recognised the growing trend of customers towards ethical, local and healthy purchasing. Hart said; “Our values are really important to us as a retailer, including how we source our products and the impact this can have on the environment. Soil is at the root of all the food we produce and our pioneering work with farmers aims to improve the farmland and soil we’re responsible for.”
New research by Mintel shows that ethical concerns are top priority when buying food and drink (74% of people choose food that is better for animal welfare) and organic certification gives consumers the assurance that the highest standards are adhered to. The Soil Association’s Organic September helps make it easier for people to buy organic, making small changes for a big difference. The Soil Association is expecting to grow sales even further above the yearly average during this period.
Speaking at the market briefing, Clare McDermott, business development director at Soil Association Certification said; “The UK’s organic market is looking immensely positive for the future. Since the beginning of the year we have had over 1000 new product applications with Soil Association Certification and an increase of 14% in the last 6 months in number of new applicants for organic certification. This is really exciting as it shows us there is a real confidence in us and in the future of organic. Brands are releasing new lines and expanding their offerings to respond to food trends and demands. Organic September is having a real impact on organic across the UK too – everyone in the industry is linking up to help consumers make small changes for a big impact. Together with recent data from Nielsen, it’s easy for us to see that organic is becoming a real pillar of UK business.”
The Soil Association market briefing also discussed new innovations and market opportunities outside of the retail supply chain. The Nielsen data showed an increase in eating outside the home in the last year. Organic products are becoming more widely available to the foodservice industry, a market that has been invigorated by the Soil Association’s Food for Life Catering Mark. Silver & Gold Catering Marks now account for over 50% of Catering Marks in the UK, driving demand for organic food.