Horse meat scandal boosts UK organic sales

UK organic sales increased 1.6% in the first three months of the year

UK year on year sales of organic food have increased for the first time since 2009, according to new figures from Kantar Worldpanel - an increase that the Soil Association has said was partly due to the horse meat scandal.

The latest figures show that organic food sales grew 1.6% over the past three months to reach a similar level to that of May 2011. The Soil Association said in March that UK organic sales dipped 1.5% in 2012, adding that it was the only country in the world where organic sales were not growing.

The association's business development director Jim Twine said that these latest Kantar figures supported the Soil Association's own prediction that the UK organic market would improve this year.

"Whenever consumer confidence is knocked – as it has been through the horse meat scandal – people look for food that has a positive story to tell and is fully traceable," he said in a statement. "Recent moves from supermarkets, with the exception of Waitrose, to allow GM animal feed into the supply chain are also likely to impact on sales because the only way to avoid eating chicken or eggs from animals on a GM diet is to buy organic.”

According to Kantar, the strongest growing organic food sales were for yoghurts, pulses, herbs and spices and cereals.

However, despite the positive news for the UK organic sector, the Soil Association said that there was "an increasing danger" that supply would not keep up with demand for key organic products.

“To prevent a shortfall, the Soil Association is urging all retailers to work more closely than ever with their organic suppliers to ensure higher farm gate prices, better planning and decent forward contracts. This in turn will help to restore producer confidence and safeguard future supply," Twine said.

The association has said that other reasons for the UK organic market slump include supermarkets reducing their organic offerings during the recession, and a lack of government support for organic farmers.

The UK is not among the top markets for organic foods even in Europe with 2012 sales of $1.6bn.
Organic sales in the largest US market reached $21bn last year, while Germany and France racked up €6.6bn and €3.7bn respectively.

In Europe as a whole, the organic market has increased by 25% in the past five years, according to the Soil Association.

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