Shoppers continue to desert the organic aisles in their droves even though there are more products on supermarket shelves for them to choose from.

Sales have fallen for the third year in a row, by 5.8% to £847m a drop of almost 25% from the £1.1bn peak in 2008 [Kantar 52w/e 15 May]. However, there were 13.9% more organic food lines available across the big four and Waitrose on 15 May 2011 than on the same date last year [].

The figures call into question claims by the organic industry that sales have fallen because the mults do not cater for customer ­demand.

Asda and Morrisons increased the number of products on shelf, yet both saw sales fall.

However, the largest increase in organic lines was at Waitrose, which has boosted its organic offer by 56.6% since last year. Although it was the only supermarket to see its sales rise, they were only up a relatively modest 3.2% to £20.2m.

Tesco and Sainsbury's decreased the number of organic products stocked by just under 3% each but their sales were down 7.8% and 3.3% respectively.

Delistings by Tesco and Sainsbury's had a disproportionate impact on the market because of their size and scale, said Soil Association business development director Jim Twine.

Huw Bowles, chair of the Organic Trade Board, called on supermarkets to tackle "pricing misconceptions" by highlighting that their own-label organic products were often cheaper than the leading brands.

Read more
Tesco freshens up its organic packaging (20 August 2011)
Higher-welfare food prices put buyers off (30 July 2011)