MarketLine Blog

Independent retailers and restaurants are small but growing organic food sellers

Sales of organic food through independent outlets rose by 6.9% in 2013 to a value of £513m (approximately $801m). Independent outlets include box schemes; farm, health and wholefood shops; farmers’ markets; and online purchases. Most independent retailers have seen strong growth: a Soil Association survey found that 75% grew, with three quarters of these retailers reporting sales growth of more than 10%. Only 6% experienced a decline in sales.

Home delivery schemes have been doing particularly well: sales grew by 11% in 2013 to reach £193.6m (approximately $302.6m). Abel & Cole and Riverford, the two biggest box schemes, grew by 22% and 9.6% respectively. 10% growth is predicted by both companies for 2014.

Box schemes have gained popularity for a variety of reasons.

Simon Wright, a sustainable food consultant, said, “Organic enthusiasts are looking for a wider range of organic products than can be found in their local Tesco. This has led to the rise in organic sales at Waitrose, specialist retailers such as Planet Organic and box schemes.

Moreover, box schemes can be convenient and easy to use, and consumers can be assured of their quality. Business development director at the Soil Association, Jim Twine, explains: “With many of them you can have the farmer pick the produce in the morning, put it in the box and [it will] be with you the same day. And it’s all underpinned with the assurance that the produce is certified organic.”

While still a relatively small contributor to the overall organic produce market, worth £17.5m (approximately $27.4m) in 2013, sales of organic food and drink through the foodservice sector grew by 10%. Public sector catering demand has grown, as well as high street restaurants, cafes and takeaway food outlets. The Soil Association’s foodservice best practice scheme, Food for Life Catering Mark, accredited over 160 million meals served in 2013, an increase of 14% from 2012. Meals served at the Silver and Gold accreditation levels rose by 60% in the same time period, and the scheme was recognized by the government as an “effective way to raise food standards”, with both the Department of Education and NHS England using it to demonstrate the standards caterers should be aiming to achieve. In fact, 6,000 schools, including one third of primary schools in Scotland, eat Catering Mark meals every day.

Organic products are also on the up at restaurant chains. McDonald’s, for example, increased its organic milk volume by 4% 2013, and Pret A Manger has used organic milk for its tea, coffee and milk products for over two years. This appears to be a popular switch, as the company’s UK coffee sales increased by 9% in 2013.

Fore more on the UK Organic Market, why not take a look at our Case Study:
The UK Organic Market: Recovery and Expansion

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