News Bridging the Gap

Organic market grows for 12th consecutive year

The total value of the organic market is now almost double what it was in 2011. Yet the UK is failing to reap the climate and nature benefits with organic farmland staying static at 3%.

Unicorn Grocery in Manchester. Credit: Soil Association

Unicorn Grocery in Manchester. Credit: Soil Association

Last week the Soil Association Certification launched its 25th Organic Market Report, sponsored by RBOrganic Ltd. Despite a cost of living crisis in the UK and political and economic disruption globally, the market for organic grew by 2%.

Soil Association Certification Commercial Director Alex Cullen said:

“The market and macro trends are pointing to an upward trajectory but there are still many challenges and barriers to the level of growth that UK organic should be delivering for farmers – with price the biggest barrier.

“We need a radical rethink if organic is going to reach its full potential and bring organic farming into the mainstream. The entire supply chain must work together to grow the market and unlock demand for homegrown UK organic fresh produce, supported by the government.

“And we can learn valuable lessons from Europe where there is greater support and commitment from governments and retailers for farmers and from some exciting innovations taking place right here across the UK – to make organic more available and affordable.”

While supermarkets in many countries in the EU and globally have reduced their premiums (the amount added to organic products to reflect high animal welfare and environmental standards) on organic to enable growth in these lines, UK supermarkets appear to be inflating them. Simultaneously, UK supermarkets are price matching non-organic to Aldi prices, giving customers a sense of an even greater price gap against organic. Reducing these premiums offers an opportunity to make organic food more affordable for UK shoppers.

Cullen said:

“Food is not a particularly profitable sector, the recent Competition and Markets Authority investigations have made clear. Of course, every player in the supply chain needs to make a profit but when price is the biggest barrier to scaling the most sustainable and trustworthy farming system we have, there need to be more questions about what it would take to achieve economies of scale.”

Efforts to promote organic, and reduce prices, in European supermarkets and through supportive government policy have been matched by a 10.4% growth in organic farmland share of total farmland in Europe. Meanwhile, in the UK organic land has remained static at 3%.

In November 2023, the Soil Association launched their vision of “Organic For All” which aligns closely with Sustain’s Bridging the Gap programme, aiming to make organic food accessible and affordable for everyone. Bridging the Gap’s pilots are starting to explore approaches to bridge the affordability gap to organic. Simultaneously, the Soil Association will be bringing together supermarkets to explore innovation opportunities around organic.

Hannah Gibbs, Programme Manager for Bridging the Gap said:

“We believe that everyone in the UK should be able to access climate and nature friendly food and that farmers should be supported to produce that food. These latest encouraging results give us great hope for the sector and a clear call to action for government and supermarkets to learn from counterparts in Europe and support growth in UK organic farmland alongside greater availability of organic food for everyone. In this way, we can hope to see an increase in access to organic fruit and vegetables alongside climate and nature benefits for the UK.”

The full Soil Association Certification Organic Market Report is here.

Published Tuesday 27 February 2024

Bridging the Gap: Bridging the Gap to climate and nature friendly food for all.

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