"It's the whole purity and provenance message," says Rupert Thomas, marketing director of Waitrose, explaining why sales of organic beers and spirits are up 28% year-on-year at Waitrose and 32% since April.

"Stories about the purity of wheat and barley are quite motivating," he says even, it seems, among consumers whose livers are fattier than foie gras.

Chris Parker, managing director of London and Scottish, for whom sales of organic Juniper Green gin are also "nicely buoyant", says: "Margin-wise, we've picked up in the independent sector what we lost during the recession and a wee bit more from the multiples."

He puts the success of organic beer down to a desperate need for "innovative things to offer customers" in an otherwise lacklustre category.

"To be able to say, 'Here's a new organic beer brewed five miles down the road by a nice chap with a beard' is a definite benefit," he argues. "There are now 35 brewers of organic beer in Britain, and that number is growing by five a year."

Established brands are also doing well. Sales of Fuller's Honey Dew, the UK's bestselling organic beer, have risen 21% in multiples in the past 12 months, and a massive 76% in impulse outlets, with similar growth in on-trade sales, according to the company.

Non-organic cider sales continue to grow rapidly, and organic cider was one of seven organic categories identified by the Soil Association as enjoying "modest growth" up to February 2010, when its Organic Market Report was published. Aspall's says sales of all its organic cyder products vinegars as well as drinks are up by a third this year.

The ranks of organic wine are also burgeoning, helped by the growth of allergies to the nitrate preservatives commonly used in non-organic wines.

"Nearly 500 organic wines are being marketed in Britain," Parker adds, putting their success down to "technology, skill and better varieties of grape", which have overcome quality issues associated with limits on the use of nitrates. 

Focus On Organic