Soil Association’s Trade Conference hits optimistic note for organic future

Soil Association Certification’s annual trade conference brought more than 150 delegates from organic businesses, marketers and retailers together to discuss the continuing opportunities for the organic market and showcase success stories for organic producers.

The organic market continues in steady growth, and new data presented by Oliver Lowe, Business Development Director for Kantar Worldpanel, showed that significant growth is coming from non-traditional supermarkets and discounters – especially Aldi, Lidl and Co-Op – challenging the traditional dominance of Waitrose, Tesco and Sainsbury’s in this area and opening the organic market to new shoppers.

Growth in organic sales is also well ahead of non-organic sales growth in these retailers, as well as Morrisons and Asda, a trend set to continue as demand for organic increases and shopping demographics change.

Categories that are seeing clear growth include organic hot beverages, alcohol and cereals, as more people engage with these lines and shoppers enter the market. Dairy, a traditional entry point into organic food, continues to account for the greatest sales.

According to Soil Association Certification’s 2018 Organic Market Report, the organic market is worth £2.2 billion. This figure is dominated by the big retailers, with independent retailers accounting for approximately 16% of sales, a channel which is forecast to grow much further as shopping habits change and top-up shopping becomes the norm. Online and home delivery is also growing strongly and is forecast to account for 25% of all organic products sold by 2023

Kantar Worldpanel data also revealed that while 23 million people buy organic each year, nearly 80% of spend is accounted for by just 4.4 million shoppers.

Oliver Lowe, Business Development Director for Kantar Worldpanel, said, “[The] challenge is to get those four million shoppers to increase their organic spend, and to persuade the 23 million to become more regular organic users. Organic suppliers should work hard to recognise the trends that are driving non-organic categories and seize on these opportunities to get more organic in the shopping basket.”

Clare McDermott, Business Development Director for Soil Association Certification, sees this as a timely challenge to organic businesses and trade bodies to seize the momentum and get the organic message across clearly to consumers.

McDermott said, “This is an exciting time to be part of the organic movement, we are already taking steps to ensure that our message and proposition for shoppers is a clear one so that we can encourage less regular customers to keep returning to buy organic products and encourage new shoppers to pick organic from the shelf or online.

“If everyone in the industry works to ensure we have a clear message on what organic is and we continue to build availability then, then we can capture this growing interest and engage more people more often and continue this buoyant growth.”