Soil Association “cautiously optimistic” despite organic sales drop

Sales of organic products in the UK fell 5.9% to £1.73 billion in 2010, according to the Soil Association’s Organic Market Report 2011.

At the report’s trade launch, held at Natural & Organic Products Europe, the Soil Association’s Jim Twine told retailers and manufacturers that he remained “cautiously optimistic” about the future of the category.

“We’ve seen the rate of decline slow during 2010,” he said.

“Despite VAT rises and public spending cuts ahead, with product innovation and the right marketing there’s a lot to be positive about in 2011.”

Some key organic products experienced year-on-year growth during 2010. Sales of organic beef rose by 18%, baby food by 10.3% and textiles by 7.8%. Home delivery box scheme and mail order sales experienced a 1% uplift to reach £156 million.

The report also revealed that shoppers spend £33 million a week on organic products, with 86% of households making organic purchases.

The most popular categories include fresh fruit and vegetables, accounting for 30.5% and 23.2% of sales respectively.

During 2010, organically managed land in the UK decreased by 0.6% to 738,709 hectares – 4.2% of UK farmland.

“There is powerful evidence that consumers who care about the diverse benefits of organic will stay loyal, even during these tough economic times,” said Roger Mortlock, the Soil Association’s deputy director.

“Given the current uncertainties in the UK and global economy, it would be rash to make any predictions for the future organic market. But the instability caused by climate change, population growth and resource depletion mean that business as usual in food and farming is not an option.”

Download the report in full here.