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UK Organic Market worth £2.2 billion, and sales in Northern Ireland are booming with a 20% rise

The Soil Association’s 2018 Organic Market Report – launched today, 7 February – reveals the UK organic market is now worth more than ever at £2.2 billion, growing 6% in 2017. The market has now had six years of steady growth, with organic accounting for 1.5% of the total UK food and drink market.

Soil Association Certification licensees in Northern Ireland recorded fantastic growth of 20%; far higher than the UK average, with fresh produce licensees reporting as much as 65% increase in sales. Meat and poultry licensees also reported impressive growth at 46%. While organic currently represents less than 1% of the total food and drink market in Northern Ireland, rising demand from consumers alongside continued government support for farmers through the Environment Funding Scheme should provide opportunities for further market expansion.

John Carson, Soil Association Trustee and Chair of Organic NI, said: “It’s fantastic that Northern Ireland’s organic licensees have experienced such phenomenal growth over the past year across all sectors from fresh produce to meat and poultry. Such a steady increase in sales demonstrates that shoppers want to see more organic products on shelf, and provides supermarkets and retailers with the confidence to stock more organic products. With diet-related ill health on the rise, it’s encouraging to see more people recognising the importance of producing better quality food – which is what organic is all about.”

Key trends highlighted in the report, for the whole of the UK, include:

  • Supermarket sales of organic grew by 4.2% in 2017, while non-organic supermarket sales increased by just over 2% [3]
  • Independent retailers increased sales of organic by 9.7%
  • Sales of organic for home delivery, including box schemes, grew by 9.5% and now account for almost 13% of the organic market
  • Sales in foodservice, including through the Organic Served Here scheme, grew by 10.2%
  • The organic and natural beauty market was worth £75.9 million in 2017, up 24%
  • Sales of organic textiles grew by 25%

This year has seen booming sales in independent retail and home delivery: expanding online ranges, and growing interest in box schemes, means these areas are now growing at a faster rate than supermarket, and between them account for almost 30% of the organic market.

Clare McDermott, Business Development Director at Soil Association Certification, said: “More and more people now understand what organic really means – both for health and for the environment – and people are placing increasing importance on knowing where their food has come from. The growth of independent retail and home delivery over the past couple of years, including more box schemes entering the market, is an opportunity – particularly for producers – to make the most of their provenance by offering customers the field-to-fork experience. And as online retail is able to adapt and expand quickly, there are plenty of opportunities to be a part of this growing market.”

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