The value of organic food and drink in the restaurant and catering sector grew sharply in 2013, rising 10% to £17.5m, with increasing demand from high-street eating-out chains cited as a reason, a new report shows.
It’s a marked increase on the 1.6% growth last year. The Soil Association’s Organic Market Report 2014 cited operators such as McDonald’s and Pret A Manger for organic milk, tea and coffee.
The report said: “Organic businesses experienced growing demand from public sector catering and through high street restaurants, cafés and ‘food to go’ outlets.
“The Soil Association’s Food for Life Catering Mark, the UK’s fastest growing foodservice best practice scheme, accredited over 160 million meals served in 2013 – an increase of more than 14% on the previous year. Nearly a third of meals served are now at the Silver and Gold levels of accreditation in which organic sourcing plays a part – an increase of more than 60%.”
Overall sales of organic products in the UK grew by 2.8% in 2013 to £1.8bn, the first time that growth has been reported since 2009. Sales through supermarkets grew by 1.2%, the first increase since 2009, with growth of 10.4% through on-line grocer Ocado and +6.5% at Waitrose.
Growth has been particularly strong in the dairy sector, where overall sales increased by 4.4%. Organic milk sales grew by 5% and yoghurt sales by 7%. Sales of organic vegetables increased by 3.4%, while the market for organic meat, fish and poultry grew by 2.2%.
Soli Association chief executive Rob Sexton said: “The message to retailers and organic businesses is clear – if you make organic products available and promote them well, consumers are ready to respond.
“Independent retailers reporting growth in 2013 put their success down to two factors above all others – increased marketing, and innovation through the introduction of new products.
“The horsemeat controversy played a part too, by reminding the public of the quality, integrity and traceability of organic products. But the green shoots of revival appeared before ‘horsegate’, and consumer demand for organic food continues to accelerate one year on.”
However, he warned that “a cloud may be forming on this bright horizon”.
“Questions are being asked by some farmers about continuing with organic production in the face of high feed costs, a lack of longer-term commitment from some retailers and uncertain support from policy makers.
“There is a risk that supply of some key commodities may dip just as demand is picking up, putting imported organic products on the shelves where UK products could be. If this supply challenge can be addressed, however, previous farming experience suggests that the future looks positive.”
Meanwhile, a YouGov survey for the Soli Association found that the top reason given for buying organic products was the association with having fewer pesticides or chemicals (37%).
This was followed by the products being natural/unprocessed (34%), healthier (33%) and better for the environment and nature (29%). Twenty nine percent said they buy organic because it tastes better, and just 19% do so because it’s more ethical.