24 March 2018 | Online since 2003

5 March 2018

Organic eggs outperform market

Organic eggs outperformed other organic foods last year, according to new figures released by the Soil Association.

The association's annual market report shows that the organic sales grew by six per cent in 2017, driving the value of the market to more than two billion pounds. But sales of organic eggs grew by 7.4 per cent over the year and, according to the Soil Association's trade relations consultant Finn Cottle, growth increased towards the end of the year.

"It was really strong in the three months leading up to Christmas and at Christmas," said Finn, who said that food scares probably encouraged more people to make the switch to organic. "We had more of these stories last year - particularly fipronil - and I think that made more consumers think more about the food they were eating."

Millions of birds were culled in Europe last year after fipronil - a banned chemical - was found to have been used in a red mite treatment for layers. Although no fipronil was found on farms in this country, the Food Standards Agency said some prepared foods were withdrawn because of imported egg affected by the chemical. In its annual report, the Soil Association said, "Fipronil was found in eggs, and supermarkets were challenged in the media for using fake farm names on products. This built more mistrust among consumers. But it bodes well for organic with its high ethical and welfare standards and independent inspections and verification."

Finn Cottle said that increase in the organic egg market was well ahead of the increase in non-organic sales. "Market growth for organic eggs in 2017 was 7.4 per cent; non-organic was 3.5 per cent. And there was a much stronger trend towards the end of the year. It is really very good news for organic eggs."

Organic eggs now account for 6.9 per cent of all egg sales in this country. "I think that is the highest penetration I can recall for quite a few years and it is higher than milk, which is one sector I always look to for a comparison." Organic accounts for 5.9 per cent of the milk market, according to the Soil Association report.

The market report shows that the growth in egg sales in 2017 was bettered by only two sectors. Chilled foods and deli produced 21 per cent growth and beers, wines and spirits 8.2 per cent growth. Dairy was up 3.1 per cent; fresh produce 6.5 per cent; meat, fish and poultry 4.1 per cent; confectionery and soft drinks 1.9 per cent; canned and packaged foods 5.2 per cent; and frozen food 6.7 per cent. Two sectors fell back. Bakery foods were down 10.3 per cent and baby food and drink down 2.3 per cent.

The overall organic market is now worth £2.2 billion in the UK. Last year was the sixth consecutive year that sales grew. There were increases in both high street and online sales. Independent retail sales grow by 9.7 per cent and home delivery was up 9.5 per cent. Supermarket sales increased by 4.2 per cent.

“One of the biggest stories for organic over the past couple of years has been the rise of online shopping, and it’s a trend that shows no sign of slowing down," said Clare McDermott, business development director at Soil Association Certification. "Driven by convenience, an ever broader range of choice, and by younger generations entering the market, it’s no surprise online sales are outperforming the traditional supermarket on organic. Online retail is also able to adapt and innovate at a faster pace than in-store, bringing new and trend-led products to market, and people are recognising that they can often find a better range online," she said.

"Home delivery already accounts for almost 13 per cent of the organic market and the expectation is that this could reach as much as 25 per cent in the near future. It’s a good fit for organic too: the local, fresh, farm-to-door approach of box schemes is in line with the ethos of organic and appeals to consumers who value food provenance.”

Rose Price, head buyer at Ocado, said, “We know how important organic is to our customers, and that’s why we’ve spent the last year expanding our ranges of organic to meet rising demand. As a result of a recent Meet the Buyer event, we are hoping to launch over 100 new products during 2018," she said. "We see no end to the strong growth in organic, as the market has been buoyed by a new generation of shoppers looking to spend their earnings on food and drink that is not only better for them, but also for animal welfare and the environment.”

Finn Cottle said that the increase in organic egg sales had been driven not only by recent food scares but also greater availability. "I have always said that if retailers made organic eggs available on their shelves that consumers would buy them. I think we are now seeing more organic eggs available and sales are increasing."

Just two or three years ago the organic egg market was lagging behind other organic sectors, but last year's figures show that eggs are now outperforming other organic foods. Increased concerns about food contamination and the increased availability of an organic option appear to have helped turn around the fortunes of organic egg producers.


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