SALES OF ORGANIC food in the UK fell again in 2012, down 1.5% to £1.64bn.
Supermarkets have been blamed for the downward slide, with reduced shelf space and cuts to their ranges resulting in a 2.4% slump in sales across the multiple retailers.
In foodservice, however, there is a very different story to tell: organic catering and restaurant sales rose by 1.6% in 2012. James Twine, the organic certification body’s business development director, said this was because more and more foodservice organisations share the values inherent in organic food, and have got over some “misconceptions” about price and availability.
“There are a lot of restaurants and caterers listing more and more organic ingredients in a way that perhaps they weren’t a few years ago,” Twine said in an interview published in this month’s Footprint magazine. McDonald’s, for instance, used 21.1m litres of organic milk – up 5.5% compared with 2011.
In the cost sector there has been even more dramatic progress, thanks to the Food for Life Catering Mark. With over 140m accredited meals served in 2012, it is the fastest growing foodservice best-practice scheme.
Those involved are reporting increased uptake of school meals, said Twine, but the scheme is also being used by hospitals – though none have achieved the gold standard. Given that catering still accounts for just 1% of a UK organic market worth £1.64bn, and given concerns about public procurement, there is plenty of life in organic yet, he added: “People are increasingly asking about their food when they eat out.”
The Soil Association’s annual “Organic Market Report” provides an in-depth analysis of the global market for organic food and drink.
As well as the catering sector, sales online are also moving in the right direction - £4.1m is spent on organic products online every week.
The horse meat scandal has also provided a boost for organic sales, with data published by Kantar Worldpanel showing that in February 2013 total supermarket organic sales increased to their highest level in nine months – up 8.4% on the previous month. The scandal has hit processed products badly.
For the four weeks ending February 17th, frozen burger sales were down 43% and frozen ready meals by 13%.