UK: Soil Association predicts organic growth

Michelle Russell, July 20th 2010 (from www.just-food.com)

The UK organic sector is still in decline but growth is predicted as consumer confidence returns, according to the Soil Association.

Demand for UK organic food stopped growing at the end of 2008 as the downturn began to hit consumer spending. In 2009, sales dropped 12.8%.

However, Finn Cottle, acting trade director for the Soil Association, said yesterday (19 July) that the category is expected to grow again on the back of investment from organic brands and a renewed focus from retailers.

“The organic market is still in decline but improving. It has been on a really, really steep decline but suddenly the change I have seen in businesses is that everyone has had to dig deeper and think differently about organic.

Yet she added: “The branded sectors are generally more resilient and growing. Confidence is strong. There is a lot of money being spent on organic and companies are predicting growth.”

Cottle said that while sales of organic fresh poultry fell GBP6.3m (US$9.6m) for the year ended 13 June 2010, a number of smaller categories have experienced growth including herbs and spices, butter, dry pulses and cereals, and honey.

She added: “Retailer strategies are swinging back to premium foods, which are back into growth again. All brands are spending huge amounts on organics, which is a sign of returning confidence. And innovation is happening.

“We are very, very positive about organic growth. We don’t see it dropping further,” Cottle insisted.