More of us are buying organic food, finds report

Sales of organic produce grew by almost five per cent in 2015, making the industry worth £1.95 billion - with the independent sector leading the way. 

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That’s the findings of a new report by industry body The Soil Association, which revealed that the organic sector had seen a surge in growth for the third year in a row.

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Despite a healthy rise in supermarket food sales of three per cent, the report shows that the independent food sector has seen the greatest increase of organic trade, with the increased availability of veg box schemes and online retailers having a massive impact, resulting in a combined growth of eight per cent.

According to the research, people have changed the way they shop for food, which is altering where they buy organic products from. The report shows a growing trend to shop less in large out of town stores less and instead do smaller shops in local stores.

A decade ago, supermarkets had around 80 per cent of organic sales, now they have less than 70 per cent. This equates to a £200 million sales switch. While Sainsbury’s currently holds the largest share of the organic market amongst big retailers, discount supermarkets Aldi and Lidl are also gaining a share of this market with a small range of organic. 

While the non-organic grocery sector saw a decrease of 0.9 per cent, shoppers spent an extra £1.73 million a week on organic products last year. The Soil Association has attributed this growth to a generation of young consumers with strong social, ethical and environmental values. 

Martin Sawyer, Chief Executive of Soil Association Certification, said: “This is a hugely exciting time for the organic sector, with the market set to break through the £2 billion mark in 2016 and reach levels seen before the recession.”

“Thanks to the growth of online, it is now possible for retailers to connect consumers with the broadest choice of organic products,” he added.

Additionally, other organic sectors also saw impressive growth – catering and health and beauty rose by 15 per cent and 21 per cent respectively.

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The report comes after recent studies have shown that there are significant differences between organic and non-organic food. For example, research by Newcastle University found that organic milk and meat contains around 50 per cent more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.