Report: Soil Association Annual Conference 2012

Over 500 delegates gathered in London on Friday 2nd March at an extremely well-organised and informative one day conference under the title ”Facing the future: Innovation in food and farming”.

Here are the two most interesting parts of the day.

  1. Presentation from Julian Walker-Palin, Head of Corporate Sustainability, Asda

Consumer research conducted with 5,300 Asda shoppers:

  • Main reason given not to buy Green products “too expensive”
  • 94% bought ‘healthy’ products
  • 74% bought ‘green products
  • Customers will spend “a few pence” more on an ethical product: top are Fairtrade, Energy Useage, Animal Welfare
  • Fairtrade, Local and Organic products all thought to be of equal quality
  • 26% thought Asda could be greener by selling more organic products
  • 100% of female shoppers and 99% of male shoppers had heard of organic
  • Organic was thought to be pesticide free, produced to strict rules, free from additives
  • 51% of shoppers thought organic should be priced the same as non-organic, 34% thought it should be twice as expensive, 6% thought it should be half the price of non-organic

2. Soil Association Organic Market Report 2012

  • Sales of organic products in the UK fell by 3.7% in 2011 to £1.67 billion
  • Sales through box schemes, home delivery and mail order increased by 7.2% to £167m
  • Committed organic shoppers looked increasingly to specialist retailers as the supermarkets reduced choice and availability of organic products
  • The main cause of the markets overall decline was a 5% drop on multiple retail sales driven by a challenging year on the high street, continuing cuts in ranges and shelf-space and a lack of investment in own-label organic ranges (own-label sales are down 9.5% but organic brands only dropped by 2.9%)
  • The organic sectors that grew in 2011 were lamb (+16%), baby food (+6.6%), and poultry (+5.8%)
  • Among the three leading supermarkets only Waitrose anticipates growth while Tesco and Sainsbury’s both anticipate a decline
  • Top reasons for consumers buying organic are fewer chemicals (62%), natural and unprocessed (57%) and healthier for me and my family (52%)
  • UK remains the only organic market in decline: sales are up elsewhere with the USA +8%, Netherlands and Sweden both +13%, France +12% and Brazil +40%