February 19, 2021

The UK’s organic market is now worth £2.79 billion (€3.2bn), after a 12.6% growth in sales in 2020, according to data from the Soil Association Certification’s Organic Market Report 202.

The market has now reached its highest growth rate in 15 years, outperforming growth in the non-organic sector. During 2020, more than £50 million (€57.7m) per week was spent on organic food and drink.

The market report highlighted that online and home delivery sales fuelled much of the growth in the organic market in 2020, with sales increasing by 36.2%, which means this channel accounts for almost 25% of total sales.

Nielsen RMS data reported that sales of organic items in supermarkets increased by 12.5%, with many categories showing growth over 20%.

Finn Cottle, Trade Consultant at Soil Association Certification, said: “The unprecedented crisis of 2020 has brought immense challenges across the entire food supply chain – not least for organic businesses. So, it’s significant that in times of crisis, people are turning to organic products for the assurance of transparency, integrity and quality they provide. 

“Organic is now rightfully recognised as the cornerstone of a resilient food and farming system and a vital part of the solution to the climate, nature and health crises.:

Ms Cottle added: “With people spending more time at home preparing and planning meals, many shoppers are also appreciating the incredible range of organic options that are available online, with stand-out growth of 36.2% in this channel. 

“With the organic market growing faster than ever and expected to reach £2.9bn (€3.34bn) by the end of 2021, there is a huge opportunity for organic businesses to innovate and continue growing the market.”

Increased interest in online shopping and box schemes both for ease and choice during the pandemic has driven up customer numbers, orders and sales for many operators, substantially strengthening the success of this longstanding organic channel.

Laura Henderson, Ocado’s Head of Buying Fresh & Frozen, said: “We saw a marked increase in the sale of our organic food and drink products at Ocado over the past year. Our new partnership with Marks and Spencer increased the number of organic products available, taking our total to more than 4,000. 

“This is considerably more than other grocery retailers and we’re delighted to offer our customers such variety of choice – all with the effortless convenience of shopping online.”

Rob Haward, Managing Director of organic veg box company, Riverford, said: “Riverford was already experiencing strong growth early in 2020, before COVID-19, driven by a desire for more organic and plant-based eating. 

“In the face of the surge in demand we experienced during the pandemic we reduced our range back to veg boxes to meet our customers’ needs and limit our sales to new customers. We are now building back up to a narrower more veg-focused range.”

He added: “Even with these measures in place our sales increased by more than 40% compared to the prior year, and sales are remaining at these high levels as the continuing restrictions on people’s lives drives strong demand for home delivery of fresh organic food.” 

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