Soil Association highlights key retail opportunity as organic sales keep rising

The Soil Association has revealed new sales figures as the organic market continues its seventh consecutive year of growth, as we approach the group's 'Organic September'.

Consumer research undertaken by the Soil Association found several key factors have bolstered continued growth in the organic market. This is supported by the latest Nielsen Scantrack data sales figures that show an overall sales growth of 4% for the 52 weeks to 30 June 2018.

The research found that ‘healthiness’ and ‘taste & inspiration’ are increasingly important to consumers. Dramatic growth in sales include:
• Organic delicatessen, including many chilled vegetarian products, up 27.8% year on year, while organic beer, wine and spirits (BWS) are up 8.7%.
• Organic canned and packaged goods up 6.6%, with organic meat, fish and poultry sales also rising with an increase of 5.6% spurred on by barbeques and the hot summer weather.
• Overall, sales of organic produce (+5.3%) and organic dairy (+3.5%) continue to grow ahead of the non-organic market.

The findings show that consumers are increasingly looking to organic as a signifier of health, particularly among younger demographics. The move among many to reduce their meat consumption and move towards vegan and vegetarianism may also have played a role in the growth of organic, particularly produce.

The certification body says that these figures are a sign that trust in the assurance of organic food production is peaking, while Soil Association’s research also shows provenance to be increasingly important to consumers following recent food scares. Organic products, certified by law, have a fully traceable supply chain with products produced to strict standards.

To meet the growing demand for organic, a raft of new products has come to the organic market in recent months. Soil Association Certification, has certified over 3,000 innovative new organic products and producers in the last year alone, including seaweed gin, kefir and even hot cross buns.

Organic, an area traditionally associated with smaller businesses, has also seen big brands entering the market, including Red Bull’s Organics range, Babybel introducing organic cheese, and the launch of Honest’s Kids Organic Juice range, owned by Coca-Cola.

Finn Cottle, Trade Consultant for Soil Association Certification, points to this increase in product lines, combined with changing consumer attitudes to food provenance and healthy eating, as the impetus behind organic’s continued success.

Welcoming the figures, she urged retailers to take advantage of this market growth by continuing to list more organic products. Finn said, “The demand for innovative new products shows the wide appeal organic holds for health-conscious consumers who prioritise food quality, taste, and wellbeing simultaneously. Organic is food as it should be, with no artificial additives or GM, and grown with fewer pesticides; factors that we know are increasingly important to shoppers.

“This rising demand is a major opportunity for retailers to list new brands and products and seize the momentum surrounding organic – momentum that is showing no signs of slowing down. This summer’s results clearly show that if there is supply, demand will follow.”

Retailers and shoppers alike will have the chance to enjoy many of these new products this Organic September, Soil Association’s annual celebration of organic food and farming. During September, the Soil Association will capitalise on the growing interest in and availability of organic by going back to basics with the message that organic is food as it should be.

Lynette Sinclair, Managing Director of Tideford Organics, a Soil Association Certification licensee producing organic vegan soups, sauces, pestos and misos, said, “Tideford are very much motivated by the health and environmental benefits of reducing meat and dairy consumption, as are our customers. We find particularly that our high protein recipes are popular with consumers looking for plant-based protein.

“Since 2016, this shift in consumer habits has been incredibly successful for Tideford - our sales are up +60% year on year, and there's a clear correlation between organic and free-from shoppers, particularly in younger demographics.”

Soil Association is supporting nation-wide events and organic brand promotions this Organic September. Independent retailers across the country are encouraged to get involved with Organic September Saturday, this year on September 15.