Source: Alamy 

Total organic sales rose by 1.6% to £3.1bn last year despite ‘unprecedented challenges’ for businesses and consumers

Organic sales rose for their 11th year in a row in 2022 despite the cost of living crisis, the Soil Association’s annual Organic Market report has revealed.

In an “unprecedented and challenging year for business and consumers”, total organic sales rose by 1.6% to £3.1bn last year, with £8.5m spent on organic food and drink every day.

This increase was below the rate of food inflation and the association did not disclose volumes. However, the rise contributed to a 25.4% sales growth figure for organic food and drink for the past three years – pre-pandemic UK organic sales stood at £2.45bn.

This was evidence the organic category “represents a resilient investment opportunity with a strong growth trajectory”, it claimed.

Highlights included a 152% rise in sales via foodservice and eating out, as non-food organic textiles and beauty secured growth of 35% and 6.8% respectively.

The impact of inflation did lead to a fall in supermarket organic sales of 2.7%. However, the market remained “sizeable” – worth £1.92bn, the organic accreditation body stressed.

And in the final four weeks of the year, organic sales in the supermarkets returned to growth of 0.5%. It followed eight years in which organic food and drink grew faster than non-organic. Over the long term, organic’s positive potential in supermarkets was reflected in a compound annual growth rate of 5.4%, compared with 1.8% for non-organic, it said.

On a sectoral basis, baby food and drink performed best: sales rose 13.7% to give it a 11.2% share of organic food and drink. It was followed by dairy, up 4.2%.

However, fresh produce, ambient grocery and meat fish & poultry – down 9.6%, 6.7% and 9.7% respectively – were among eight categories to lose ground.

But despite these falls, which were driven by cost of living challenges, Soil Association Certification commercial director Alex Cullen was bullish about the category’s overall progress.

“Today, eight out of ten supermarket shoppers buy organic and many are cutting their spend or switching to conventional products because of price pressures,” Cullen said.

“But crises don’t last forever. Inflation will come down and shopper confidence will return. In organic there is an amazing momentum building with the potential for strong future growth capitalising on the high levels of consumer trust and confidence it holds by meeting their needs for sustainable and healthy food. The more economies of scale we can build across the organic sector the more we can bring down prices and make high quality, healthy organic food accessible for all.”