Organic market in ‘rude health’ as consumers demand welfare & nature friendly foods

Delegates at the conference heard that non-organic food sales have slowed significantly following their ‘lockdown high’ as restrictions have been lifted on the hospitality and food service sector but sales of organic are showing good resilience. The trend for more sustainable and healthier organic foods which rocketed during the pandemic has persisted and now the supermarkets are also enjoying a surge in demand for organic.

Online organic sales have continued their strong growth up 33%² while supermarkets, which accounted for 13% of total sales of organic two years ago before the pandemic, have seen their share of total organic sales rise to 22%².

Soil Association Certification’s business development director Clare McDermott said: “Organic sales have shown phenomenal resilience after the unprecedented growth they saw in 2020 at 12.6%³. Despite a significant slowing of retail sales overall the organic market has maintained its strong performance with growth at 6.5% in the year to September.

“The latest surge in organic sales proves that the British public want food produced with more, not less, care for the environment and animal welfare. Insights show that shoppers are searching out higher welfare products that are produced with the environment in mind and want to support British farmers. We should be looking to deliver more of the benefits that agroecological farming, like organic, can provide for wildlife, soils, people and climate.”

The top reasons given by consumers for buying organic are to avoid pesticides; better for the environment; and perceived to be better quality. These factors have all increased in importance for shoppers as has animal welfare, while the taste and health benefits associated with organic foods have remained the same.

Sustainability is high on people’s agendas and Covid-19 and the climate emergency have increase this. New findings from the latest Organic Shopper Research 20214(4) reveals that 71% of respondents have become more concerned about the environment. Customers are predominantly choosing organic for reasons associated with health and the environment although animal welfare is also important. Two-thirds want to know more about where the ingredients in their food come from and that it is safe.

Key findings from the research:

  • 79% of people say they are increasingly worried about the natural world and our impact on it
  • 86% would like their food to be produced in a more natural way without excess processing and chemicals
  • 77% said they want to make more sustainable choices in the products they buy
  • 71% want to make more ethical choices in the products they buy
  • 66% want to know more about where the ingredients in my food come from

The conference heard how by joining the dots between sustainability and the environment, producers and retailers can connect people’s focus on their health, the environment and animal welfare. These insights can help the organic sector to understand why people choose organic and identify clear opportunities to drive sales. But consumers need help to make the connection between organic and sustainability.


Based on Nielsen RMS data for the Organic category Soil Association Defined for the 52 week period ending 25thSeptember 2021 for the GB total retail market.

Nielsen Homescan Total FMCG 52 w/e 11September 2021

Soil Association Certification Organic Market Report 2020

4 The Crow Flies – Organic Shopper Research 2021 – based on qualitative research and a quantitative study of 1,000 people between June and August 2021

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