FOR the first time in four years, we have seen growth in the organic sector, of 2.8 per cent in 2013. This puts organic sales growth slightly ahead of grocery sales, which finished the year up around 2.1 per cent.
Launching today, the Soil Association’s 2014 Organic Market Report values the organic market at £1.79 billion, up from £1.74bn in 2013.
We know that more and more Scots are buying organic food, with organic spend over the year to 5 January 2014 increasing by 8.2 per cent to £56 million. Interestingly, the Scots’ spend is growing at a faster rate than Great Britain as a whole, which is up by 6.4 per cent over the same period (according to Kantar Worldpanel data, supplied by the Scottish Government).
One in three Scottish households now buys organic produce at least once a month. The main reasons for choosing organic, according to YouGov research, are that it contains fewer chemicals and pesticides (49 per cent), it’s healthier for me and my family (38 per cent) and it’s natural and unprocessed (35 per cent). In terms of what people buy, most choose organic fruit and vegetables (51 per cent), eggs (32 per cent) and dairy including milk, yoghurt and cheese (24 per cent).
Multiple retailers are responsible for 71 per cent of all sales of organic food, with Sainsbury’s picking up the title of the UK’s largest organic retailer. If you can’t find what you’re looking for at your supermarket, asking for it is one clear way to convey consumer demand and may lead to increased choice on the shelves.
Our diverse independent retail sector has led the way this year, increasing organic sales by 6.9 per cent to almost £10m per week. In Scotland, to find organic products you can join an organic box scheme, find your nearest farmers’ market, explore a farm shop or visit a wholefood shop.
All these shopping experiences can be good fun, giving you access to seasonal and local organic products that you can trust. Organic farmers work with nature to give you great quality, organic food that is value for money. I urge you to support them: small changes to your shopping can make a big difference to their future.
• Laura Stewart is director of Soil Association Scotland. The Soil Association is the UK’s largest membership charity campaigning for sustainable food, farming and land use. www.soilassociation.org/scotland