23 October 2019 saw around 200 delegates from across the organic industry attend Soil Association Certification’s annual Organic Trade Conference in London.
The conference, titled ‘Together we can make a world of difference’, hit an optimistic note for the future of organic and the potential for a united market to resonate with an increasingly “environmentally aware” public.
Opening the conference, Mike Watkins, Head of Retail and Business insight at Nielsen, revealed another year of growth with organic sales at supermarkets up 3.8%* so far in 2019.
Growth in organic sales is now double that of non-organic sales, a trend set to continue as demand for organic increases and shopping demographics change.
Speaking at the conference, Mr Watkins said that the level of growth was “impressive” considering the rate of inflation in 2019 has been low. He added: “There’s growing interest in organic as it’s perceived as good for both individual and planet health. The mood of the nation is changing and there is a willingness to make sustainable changes that wasn’t there a few years ago - I think we’re at a tipping point. I expect to see a continued increase in demand for more products that are fresh, less processed and better for the planet and I do believe organic food and drink can lead the way.”
This view was echoed by David Preston from brand agency The Crow Flies, who presented consumer research on changing shopper behaviours conducted for Soil Association Certification in Summer 2019.
The findings of the research confirm that consumer choice is moving from individual centric to planet centric decision making, as shoppers are increasingly considering the impacts they can have on the planet, rather than purely what a product can do for them as an individual.
Mr Preston said this presented a good opportunity for organic as when its principles were explained to shoppers, they found them “very compelling” reasons to choose organic – particularly regarding reducing pesticide use and protecting biodiversity, climate and animal welfare.
The research also suggested that businesses that make sustainable choices easier and concisely express sustainability claims are most likely to succeed by increasing consumer understanding of the issues, in turn driving demand.
Clare McDermott, Business Development Director at Soil Association Certification, sees this as a major opportunity for organic businesses who can clearly communicate the proven sustainable benefits of organic.
McDermott said: “The latest sales figures and our research both prove that shoppers are increasingly concerned about where their food comes from and how it is produced. If everyone involved in the organic movement, from retailers to producers, consistently and clearly reinforces the sustainable benefits of organic farming to both people and planet, then we can convert a desire for change into actions that support organic. We know that when shoppers hear of all the benefits that organic offers to the planet and wildlife, it becomes a no-brainer.”
The conference heard from speakers from the industry around UK and Europe who also reported seeing an increasing demand for sustainability and traceability among shoppers – as well as continued growth in the organic market across many European countries.
Notes to Editor:
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*Source: Nielsen Total Till vs Nielsen Scantrack Organic Food & Drink from period 52w/e 7 Sept 19
The research carried out by The Crow Flies focused on potential buyers of organic – those buying one or two organic products now in their food shopping and open to more - not existing organic customers. It involved 58 participants who carried out 12 in depth interviews with two-week dialogue sessions in London, Birmingham & Manchester. There were also six focus groups held in Cambridge, Manchester & London. For more information.
The Soil Association was founded in 1946 by farmers, scientists, doctors and nutritionists to promote the connection between the health of the soil, food, animals, people and the environment. Today the Soil Association is the UK's leading membership charity campaigning for healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use. Its Chief Executive is Helen Browning, and Chair of Trustees is Gabriel Scally.
Soil Association Certification is a wholly owned subsidiary which certifies over 70% of all organic products sold in the UK. Certifying organic food and farming since 1973, and more recently, organic textiles, health and beauty products, the team has built up extensive practical experience and provides unrivalled support before, during and after certification. It also audits other schemes within catering and forestry, including the Food for Life Served Here, and the FSC and PEFC forestry standards internationally, delivering assurances of quality and provenance that industry and consumers can trust. Its Chief Executive is Martin Sawyer and its independent board is chaired by Nick Buckland. To find out more visit www.soilassociation.org
Sophie Morgan | Press Officer | Soil Association | Direct line: 0117 3145170 / 07930991804 | Out of hours media calls 07900 683956
The Soil Association is a membership charity campaigning for planet-friendly food and farming. We believe in the connection between soil, food, the health of people and the health of the planet. To join or make a donation please visit www.soilassociation.org.