Organic sales into foodservice increased 7.8% in 2018 to £90.9m; five years ago the market was worth only £48.8m.
Of the total, £19.5m came through the Soil Association’s Food for Life scheme. The double digit increases of previous years have slowed due to public spending cuts and “political uncertainty”, said the Association, but sales were still up 8.3%.
“Supplying the public sector can be more complex than selling into retail yet many organic businesses have secured large volumes and long contracts through negotiations and offering relevant products,” it noted in its latest Organic Market Report, published this week.
The fact that more wholesalers are now certified organic has also helped. The number of cafés and restaurants signed up to the Association’s new “Organic Served Here” scheme – which is for outlets with 15% to 100% organic on the menu – is expected to reach 70 by spring this year.
Sales of organic products in supermarkets, meanwhile, increased 3.3% to £1.537 billion. The amount of organic certified land also increased (by 1.9%) for the first time since 2008. Leading European food brands this week launched a €10m fund – badged the “MiiMOSA Transition” – to help farmers switch to organic farming.
Health and provenance are the key motivators driving consumers towards organic food and drink. They are also choosing organic because “they have more knowledge of how it guarantees higher animal welfare standards, contains fewer pesticides with no added artificial additives or chemicals, and is better for the planet”.
Soil Association CEO Helen Browning used her foreword for the report to highlight the “complex” meat and dairy debate. “[Our] message is ‘less but better’. ‘Better’ is ideally organic, and we would like to see the end of ultra-intensive, grain-based livestock systems, which can be highly polluting, as well as inhumane. We acknowledge that over-consumption of livestock products is damaging for the environment, and accelerating climate change. But we support the role that plant-eating animals can have in building soil fertility, supporting habitats on which much wildlife depends and providing high quality nutrition, especially to people on low incomes.”
Organic now accounts for 1.5% of the overall food and drink market in the UK.