Organic food sales rose in February as consumers reacted to the on-going horsemeat scandal, new figures have suggested.

Total supermarket organic sales rose to a nine-month high in February, up 8.4% compared to the previous month, according to the Organic Market Report published by the Soil Association today (20 March). However, overall organic sales fell 1.5% over the year, and organic sales at the big multiple retailers were down 3.8%, the figures from Kantar Worldpanel show.

The Soil Association, a charity that campaigns for sustainable food, said consumers were choosing to buy organic as a “guarantee of integrity”, following revelations around horsemeat in beef products.

“In the worst economic downturn in living memory, it’s not surprising to find subdued sales of a wide variety of goods and services, and the UK organic sector is not immune to these,” said Soil Association’s Jim Twine. “Despite a decrease in sales overall, there are areas of significant growth highlighted in the 2013 Organic Market Report. The Soil Association remains confident the UK organic market will return to growth – it is more difficult to know exactly when.”

The report found that organic shoppers were increasingly choosing the convenience of online shopping, with home-delivery specialists Ocado, Abel & Cole and Riverford growing their combined organic sales by 10.3% in 2012. Of the big multiples, Waitrose and Morrisons saw their organic sales rise 1.1% and 3.5% respectively. Other multiples saw a drop in organic sales overall, although Sainsbury’s online saw growth of 48%.