After a torrid 2009, which saw double-digit sales falls in many sectors, organic was poised for a turnaround, claimed the Soil Association and Organic Trade Board at the former's conference this week.
Consumers no longer believed organic was just for the well-heeled, they said, citing a new survey showing 83% of consumers now bought organic,C2, D and E social groups represented half its customer base and only 7% of shoppers believed organic meant 'smarter/posher'.
With 10 million UK households buying organic only two to six times a year, according to new Kantar Worldpanel figures, there was an opportunity to increase the frequencyof purchase dramatically, said the two bodies. Even a few extra purchases would add tens of millions of pounds in sales, they claimed.
"The consumer is clearly realising the benefits of organic and this has spread to the mass market, dispelling the myth that buying organic is just confined to the minority," said OTB consultant Finn Cottle.
Overcoming 'organic elitism' was one of the key themes at the conference, where delegates discussed ways of bringing the category further into the mainstream. The Soil Association said there had already been encouraging sales improvements in a number of areas.
Leading organic milk supplier Omsco reported this week that organic milk sales hit an all time high last year, with 5% growth [Kantar Worldpanel, 52w/e 27 December]. There had also been record demand for organic root vegetables in the first two weeks of January, while organic baby food had gained a 48% market share, Cottle claimed.
OTB is working with industry on a business plan to add £1bn of sales by 2015, while environmental group Sustain is launching a three-year ad campaign for organics in the autumn in a bid to generate 15% annual volume growth.