Organic sales soar despite foodservice woes

A surge in demand for veg box schemes fuelled record growth in the market for organic food and drink products in 2020.

Online and home delivery sales soared by 36.2% to almost £500m as people preparing food at home turned to veg boxes and other food subscription services during lockdown.

Almost one in four organic products were purchased online in 2020, surpassing independent retailer sales for the first time.

Sales of organic items in supermarkets increased by 12.5% with categories like chilled foods and beers, wines and spirits showing growth of over 20%.

Foodservice, however, took a hit due to closures in the private sector, with an overall decline of -23.2%, although sales of organic products into public procurement continued at a stable level. 

Overall, more than £50m per week was spent on organic food and drink last year, according to the Soil Association Certification’s annual UK organic market report, as total sales of organic products hit £2.79bn.

Sales grew 12.6% from 2019, representing a 15-year high growth rate and outperforming growth in the non-organic sector.

“It’s significant that in times of crisis, people are turning to organic products for the assurance of transparency, integrity and quality they provide,” said Finn Cottle, trade consultant for Soil Association Certification. “Organic is now rightfully recognised as the cornerstone of a resilient food and farming system and a vital part of the solution to the climate, nature and health crises.”

Organic veg box supplier Riverford said 2020 sales increased by more than 40% compared to the prior year. “Sales have remained at these high levels as continuing restrictions on people’s lives drives strong demand for home delivery of fresh organic food,” said Riverford managing director Rob Haward.

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