A NEW report by the Soil Association reveals a huge leap in organic sales for Welsh producers and processors in 2018.

Retailers in Wales saw organic sales rise 27 per cent in 2018, far outstripping both the overall organic and non-organic food and drink markets.

The report shows that the UK’s organic market is now worth £2.33 billion pounds after a 5.3 per cent growth in sales in 2018, well ahead of the non-organic market.

According to the latest Defra statistics, Wales also saw the highest increase of land farmed organically in the UK, at 5.6 per cent.

Demand for Wales-produced organic red meat, such as at the Rhug Estate, and organic dry goods are identified in the report as the main drivers of increasing sales.

The overall UK figure represents the highest ever value placed on the organic market, following seven consecutive years of growth, and means that almost £45 million is spent on organic a week.

Organic accounts for 1.5 per cent of the overall food and drink market in the United Kingdom and is expected to be worth £2.5 billion by 2020.

Home delivery of organic, through online and box schemes, was the fastest growing organic category in 2018, with an impressive sales growth of 14.2 per cent. This channel now accounts for 14 per cent of all organic sales and is on target to make up a quarter of all sales of organic in the UK by 2023.

In the report, Soil Association Certification identifies changes in shopping habit, as more shoppers turn to direct-to-consumer shopping options, and a wide choice of organic products online as major factors in the rapid growth of home delivery.

Other key areas of growth identified by the report include:

• Supermarket sales of organic, excluding discounters, increased by 3.3 per cent

• Independent retailers saw sales increasing by 6.2 per cent, buoyed by healthy and hyper-local shopping habits and wider organic ranges from wholesalers

• Organic sales into foodservice grew almost 8 per cent to £90.9 million in 2018, supported by continued interest in Soil Association’s Food For Life scheme, despite public spending cuts

Across the organic market, categories that continue to drive growth include wines, and chilled foods; and canned and packaged grocery. Figures show that the chilled convenience sector, including tofu and fresh vegetarian products, saw sales grow by over 25 per cent. Sales of fresh fruit, salad and vegetables increased by approximately £15 million during the year.

Soil Association Certification has attributed growth in the overall organic market to food trends that are shaping the entire food industry.

These trends, including the growth in free-from options, alternative choices and healthy eating, have combined with a rise in the number of ‘conscious consumers’ making purchasing decisions based on their ethical and environmental principles to be particularly beneficial to organic.

Clare McDermott, business development director, Soil Association Certification, said: “Organic in Wales has had a tremendous year and is in the right place to capitalise on many of the consumer trends we’re currently seeing across retail. We know that more shoppers are looking to purchase sustainable products to reduce their impact on the planet, and this has combined with an increasing value being placed on transparency and traceability in the food system, more local and online shopping, and increasing interest in healthy options – where organic is often seen as a healthy choice.”