24 November 2017 | Online since 2003

14 March 2017

Organic egg sales strong in 2016


Sales of organic eggs held up well in 2016 and were able to maintain their value during a period when other eggs were being discounted by supermarkets.

Soil Association trade director Finn Cottle said sales of organic eggs had increased less than the overall organic market last year, but she said that they had performed better than non-organic eggs. She said that organic now accounted for nearly seven per cent of all eggs sold in British supermarkets.

Finn was speaking to the Ranger following the publication of the Soil Association's annual organic market report, which showed that total organic sales had increased by 7.1 per cent in 2016 whilst non-organic sales had declined. The Soil Association said that the UK organic market was now worth £2.09 billion. Some 39 per cent of shoppers buy organic food on a weekly basis, says the association.

Finn said that the increase in organic egg sales was less than the increase for all organic - egg sales were up by 3.1 per cent by value year-on-year. However, she said that non-organic egg sales had fallen back by 1.7 per cent last year. The value of organic eggs had held up, she said, because it was not hit by discounting. Free range eggs have been heavily discounted by major supermarkets as part of a high street price war launched to stop the rise of the leading discounters. Half a dozen free range eggs have been sold for as little as 80 pence.

"The fall in the value of non-organic eggs will have been affected by promotions. You very rarely see promotions on organic eggs," said Finn.

She said organic eggs were now amongst the four top performing organic products in their category, with organic having 6.7 per cent of the overall egg market in 2016. "The percentage of organic eggs sold is higher than the percentage of organic milk sold," said Finn, who said that the market share for organic eggs was up from 6.4 per cent the previous year. "It has grown faster than last year," she said.

"For me having an organic choice for eggs is very important. It is key that organic eggs are available for consumers to buy. It looks as though the figures may have got better in the 12 weeks leading up to Christmas," said Finn.

The Soil Association says that organic now account for 1.5 per cent of the total UK food and drink market. More consumers are seeking organic and 80 per cent of all consumers say that they have some knowledge about organic food, says the association. “It’s a positive time for organic, as it ticks lots of boxes for consumers," said Clare McDermott, business development director at Soil Association Certification. "Organic is extremely relevant for trends towards eating better food, knowing where your food comes from, avoiding pesticides or antibiotics and ‘free from’ diets. Increasingly, we’re seeing consumers choose organic as a shortcut to a healthy lifestyle and this will continue. Despite uncertainty around Brexit for us all, it brings lots of opportunities, too – particularly for export for British organic and more product innovation,” she said.

Supermarkets account for 69 per cent of total organic sales and consumers, although the Soil Association says that shoppers are also ordering more organic products online, where, it says, there is a wider range of innovative options. “The organic market is in strong growth which is predicted to continue this year," said Tesco's Jeff Hodgson. "Organic food is becoming more important to more customers, as we see new customers entering the market and existing organic shoppers increasing the size of their organic basket. A proportion of this growth is driven by customers seeing organic as a healthier choice,” he said.

The organic market report shows that supermarket sales of organic have grown by 6.1 per cent. Independent retailers increased sales of organic by 6.3 per cent. Sales of organic products through home delivery have grown by 10.5 per cent, and sales of organic into the foodservice market have grown by 19.1 per cent.

The Soil Association says organic food is more available than ever before. Many high street chains like McDonalds, Jamie’s Italian, Nando’s and Pret are including organic products on their menus and more supermarket chains are offering wider ranges of organic choices. New independent food stores are growing rapidly, says the association.

It says that UK sales are now catching up with market growth rates around the world. The global organic food market is valued at $81billion and the UK represents some four per cent of global sales. In many countries, British organic is seen as the best that you can possibly buy - particularly in the Far East, the United States and Europe, it says. Overall, nearly half (49 per cent) of Soil Association Certification licensees are exporting products with an estimated value of exports at £250 million.

The Soil Association says organic farming remains buoyant in the UK. The number of farmers applying for Soil Association Certification is up 13.5 per cent. And Soil Association Certification saw an increase in applications for certification from processors and producers in 2016.

The food, farming and trade team manager at Triodos Bank, Simon Crichton, said, “We’ve helped farmers to finance 1,185 hectares of additional organic land in 2016 - a threefold increase on last year. We’ve seen dairy doing well, as are those who have direct relationships with consumers, whose confidence in organic has increased. There are a number of opportunities for organic farmers at the moment - but those looking to convert need to have a solid market for their product. Clearly, having certainty around support payments would be of great assistance, but agriculture has always had to take a long term view and organic methods are well placed for both environmental and financial sustainability,” he said.

The Soil Association says that more schools, hospitals and workplaces are now serving organic food - up by 19.1 per cent in 2016. Demand has been strongly driven by the Soil Association Food for Life Catering Mark, it says. Some £15 million is now spent on organic food in the sector - an increase of 66 per cent.

The non-food sector has also reported organic growth. The organic beauty and wellbeing sector grew by 13 per cent to be worth £61.2 million. Soil Association textile licensees increased organic sales by 30 per cent to £28 million.

This year has seen the launch of the Soil Association’s first market report on the organic beauty and wellbeing market. Soil Association certified beauty brands increased by 22 per cent in 2016.


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