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UK organic market lags behind rest of Europe

By Caroline Scott-Thomas+

03-Sep-2013
Last updated on 03-Sep-2013 at 09:08 GMT

Is shrinking shelf space for organics shifting purchases online?
Is shrinking shelf space for organics shifting purchases online?

Organic sales in Europe have grown by 25% over the past five years – but have slipped 1.5% in the UK, according to the Soil Association.

In its latest market report, the organic campaign organisation claims that retailers have assisted the decline in organic sales, by cutting their organic lines, thereby reducing choice for those consumers who do wish to continue buying organic foods. However, specialist online retailers have seen organic sales increase by 10% - perhaps as a result of fewer favourite organic brands on supermarket shelves, the organisation suggests. Organic restaurant and catering sales also rose 1.6% last year, and under-35s have increased their organic purchases.

The Soil Association also claims that the horse meat scandal has had a positive effect on organic sales across Europe, as consumers have become more concerned about the source and traceability of their food.

It is a trend that UK-based ingredient supplier EHL Ingredients has also noticed. Like the Soil Association, it is optimistic that the tide is turning for UK organic sales.

For the second year running, it has reported a sharp increase in sales of organic products, after several years of slow sales, which started in 2007. Organic herbs and spices have seen the biggest increase in sales, it says, reporting a 5%-10% increase for turmeric, coriander and cinnamon powders, and dehydrated vegetables like organic onion powder over the past year.

It predicts sales across its organic ingredients range could increase 10% over the year ahead. 

Tasneem Backhouse, sales director at EHL Ingredients, said: “This is not just great news for us, but offers a really positive outlook for the organic food market as a whole. During the past 18 years, we have endeavoured to expand upon our range in line with the demands of our clients in the food manufacturing sector, and we have noticed that food manufacturers are increasingly offering organic alternatives which sit alongside their conventional products.”

According to the Soil Association’s latest report, the top European markets for organic products are Germany and France, worth €6.6bn and €3.7bn respectively. In the UK, consumers in the south of the country account for the vast majority of organic sales – a third of which are in London alone.