Organic sector grows by 4.9 per cent in Scotland

The Soil Association’s 2016 Organic Market Report - launched 23 February - reveals that the organic market continued a steady growth of 4.9 per cent in 2015.

Published 23rd Feb 2016
Updated 23 rd Feb 2016

In Scotland, a total of 36 per cent of independent retailers say sales have increases over the last 12 months. This is the third year of consecutive growth for the organic sector in Scotland and across the UK, now worth £1.95 billion.

Sales of organic have continued to outperform the non-organic grocery market across the UK, which decreased by 0.9 per cent in the same period. Shoppers spent an extra £1.73 million a week on organic products in 2015, and the steady rise of the organic market experienced in the UK mirrors a global trend of growth and widening interest in the organic sector.

The Organic Market Report 2016 highlights that:

· Scots are significantly more likely to opt for organic – they represent 11 per cent of all organic consumers in the UK[i]

· 50 per cent of Scottish consumers would buy more organic food and drink if it were available[ii]

· 36 per cent of Scottish independent retailers say sales have increased over the last 12 months and 64 per cent expect this to rise in 2016

· Scotland’s organic wholesalers have seen a steady increase in sales across recent years – organic sales from Glasgow-based Greencity Wholefoods increased by 17 per cent in 2015

· Soil Association Catering Mark holders spend more than £420,000 on organic ingredients each year in Scotland. Catering Mark meals – at Bronze, Silver and Gold levels - are served in 48 per cent of Scottish local authority primary schools.

And across the UK:

· Sales of organic products in the UK are worth £1.95 billion

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· The UK organic market has grown by 4.9 per cent

· Sales of organic products in supermarkets have grown by 3.2 per cent

· Organic product sales for independent retailers have increased by 7.5 per cent

· Box schemes and online sales of organic products have risen by 9.1 per cent

· The organic catering sector has increased by 15.2 per cent

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· The organic health and beauty market increased by 21.6 per cent to £54.2million

· Organic has a 1.4 per cent share of the food and drink market

Alison Muirhead, Scotland Business Development Manager for Soil Association Certification, said: “This is a hugely exciting time for the organic sector right across the UK, with the market set to break through the £2 billion mark in 2016 and reach levels seen before the recession. Thanks to the growth of online, it is now possible for retailers to connect consumers with the broadest choice of organic products.

“The support for organic in Scotland specifically is encouraging: the new Organic Action Plan for Scotland launched earlier this year reaffirms the Scottish Government’s commitment to treat organic as a national priority, and 2015 as the Year of Food and Drink in Scotland put organic in the spotlight, with events, innovation and entrepreneurship at the forefront. The market is growing, with consumers interested in buying organic products, and looking beyond supermarkets to find them – resulting in increasing organic sales in independent retailers and wholesalers.”

This year’s figures highlight a shift in consumer shopping habits across Scotland and the rest of the UK, tending towards independent retailers. The independent and box scheme sectors have both benefited from these changing habits and grew by a combined 8.2 per cent in 2015. Consumers are now spending over £544 million every year through these channels.

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The sustained interest in organic is partially driven by an increase in young and socially conscious ‘millennials’ with strong social, ethical and environmental values. These consumers are increasingly choosing organic because they want to know the origins of their food and are willing to pay more for products with quality assurance standards supporting the environment, society and animal welfare.

This year’s star performer is grocery, driven by innovative brands and products such as jams and spreads (+28.1 per cent), fish (+25.1 per cent), oils and vinegars, and tea (+12.8 per cent).

The future is looking bright for organic - last week, research published in the British Journal of Nutrition confirmed organic dairy and meat is nutritionally different from its non-organic equivalent. Led by Newcastle University, the study was the largest systematic review of its kind and found organic milk and meat contains around 50 per cent more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. This follows earlier research which showed that organic crops contain higher concentrations of antioxidants and lower concentrations of some heavy metals, less chemical pesticide residues and nitrite/nitrate. Together, these studies are paving the way - showing how we farm does affect the quality of our food and that there are significant differences between organic and non-organic.

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