Room for growth in organic bakery

By Catherine Boal

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Organic food, Organic farming, Soil association

UK sales of organic food have risen by 30 per cent this year to
almost £1.6bn (€2.3bn) according to a new report from the Soil
Association - and bakery manufacturers are catching the trend.

Supermarkets who are stocking their own brand organic ranges of products such as bread benefited most from the growing organic craze with retailers taking £1.2bn (€1.7bn) of the total sales.

UK chains like Sainsbury's capitalised on consumer demand in the area by relaunching their 'SO Organic' range in September last year - increasing their range of organically grown bakery products.

The store now offer organic cereals, croissants and bagels as well as over 700 more organic products.

Its competitor, Tesco, sell almost 1,200 organic products, including nine varieties of bread and a range of organic nuts, flour, and cookies.

According to market researchers, Mintel, breads and cereals in the organic sector showed a 19.1 per cent rise in the two years leading up to 2004, taking sales from £68m (€98m) to £81m (€117m).

While this is not as marked a rise as that seen overall and fruit and vegetables are dominating the market at the moment, research shows that the prognosis for the bakery industry is hopeful.

A report complied by Mintel at the end of last year stated: "The somewhat fragmented nature of the organic market is a result of being dispersed throughout total grocery, so that individual categories belie the actual growth taking place.

"Less dramatic growth in smaller categories, such as bread and cereals…suggest that some concentrated activity in these areas could transform these sectors. Significantly however, no category has suffered a decline during the period under review, demonstrating the buoyancy of the market, and it is in fact a long way off peak potential."

Food and farming director of the Soil Association, Helen Browning said of the sales figures for organic produce as a whole: "These are staggering growth figures and clearly good news for UK organic producers. It is also greatly encouraging to see the supermarkets responding to criticisms by increasing their sourcing of homegrown produce."

The figures show that, on average, an extra £7m (€10m) a week is being spent on organic produce.

And consumer awareness of organic foods is rising, nearly two in three shoppers are knowingly buying organically-sourced food while four in ten said they liked to buy 'distinctive organic brands.'​ such as those sold by leading supermarkets.

The Soil Association said the image of organic food as being the choice of richer consumers was put to rest with over half of the people in the most disadvantaged social groups buying the produce.

According to the study, health scares in the last year could have directly contributed to growth in the organic sector with scientific proof of health benefits having had a 'demonstrable'​ impact.

Europe has the largest market for organic food in the world and the UK is the third largest producer after Germany and Italy.

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