Since January, sales of organic produce in UK supermarkets have seen a year-on-year growth rate of 6.1%. This figure is almost double that of non-organic food and drink products. The rate of growth was even higher in the early weeks of lockdown; in the 12 weeks ending 30 May, organic sales increased by nearly 20%.
This data comes from the Soil Association, the trade body which licenses organic products and promotes organic farming.
The organic sector is now set to exceed its projected market value of £2.5 billion by the end of 2020.
What types of organic products are UK consumers buying?
Products which have enjoyed exceptional and unexpected levels of demand include:
- Preserves and spreads (up by 18.3%)
- Beef (up by 15.3%)
- Eggs (up by 14.8%)
- Sparkling wine (up by a shocking 47%)
- Fruit, especially bananas (Tesco’s most popular organic product is its Fairtrade banana five-pack)
The growth in sales of organic animal products like meat and eggs could suggest that the shift towards organic produce is linked to an increase in ethical concerns about the treatment of animals in the food production industry.
Eggs and wine among most popular organic products
Is the pandemic making people care more about where their food comes from?
According to a YouGov survey commissioned by the Food Farming and Countryside Commission, nearly half (42%) of people feel the crisis has made them value food more.
Lockdown-related factors which are placing food in the spotlight and changing people’s habits and attitudes include:
- The drive to support local and independent businesses
- Increased focus on personal health
- Less frequent supermarket trips
- More time spent at home to cook and bake
- More interest in growing vegetables in the garden
Finn Cottle, Trade Consultant for the Soil Association, said:
“What seems clear is that at a time when quality and safety are of importance for consumers, organic ‘stands out,’ with its benefits of transparency and integrity.”
Has the pandemic increased our concern for the environment?
The link between our experience of coronavirus and concern about the climate change crisis is emerging as an overall trend. The concept of putting the community before the individual reflects the sentiment of There is no hard data as of yet, but a number of trends seem to suggest a correlation, such as the shift towards electric cars and increased concern about food wastage.
The pandemic has brought environment concerns even more to the fore
The increase in organic food sales likely reflects this trend too. People want to know that their food has come from a sustainable source. Organic farming is a systematic approach to farming which nurtures the soil, promotes biodiversity and protects the planet.
Why is organic food more expensive?
According to a survey by discount code provider Voucherbox, UK shoppers pay an average of 89% more for organic products. This is because:
- The production process involves more labour
- Demand inevitably outstrips supply because there is less land available for organic farming
- Ensuring better living conditions for livestock is costly
- Organic food grows more slowly – time is money
The fact that Waitrose have seen the biggest year-on-year increase in sales of organic food and drink out of the UK supermarkets (13%) potentially suggests that those who are more well-off are more likely to consume organic food.
The future is promising for the organic farming industry, who hope that the shift in attitudes and habits will be permanent.