The Soil Association estimates that organic bread and bakery sales in multiple retail outlets were worth £40.7 million in 2009 – down nearly 40 per cent on the previous year.
The publication, which reports that bread and other bakery products account for three per cent of organic food brought back to the home, also shows that organic biscuit sales fell by 19 per cent, while organic breakfast cereal sales declined by nine per cent during 2009.
The UK organic standards body maintains that bread sales were hit by a combination of the economic downturn and problems with variable product quality, and it states that a key concern for 2010 is the uncertain availability of organic flour and other ingredients following on from the negative impact of a wet summer on the 2009 harvest.
The Soil Association stresses that artisan bakers are producing high-quality organic products that continue to command strong support from a core of committed consumers, and it argues that argues that industry backing is needed to maintain the confidence of organic farmers in continuing to invest in and produce organic cereals.
Gordon Polson, director of the UK Federation of Bakers, which represents plant bakers, said that concerns over the sourcing of organic flour and other ingredients has never really been on its members’ radar as the demand for organic bread in the UK is not sufficient to warrant such investment.
Plant manufactured products account for around three-quarters of all bakery products sold in the UK.
Polson told BakeryandSnacks.com that more pressing concerns for UK bread manufacturers relate to the fact that the UK is still a very competitive marketplace with huge cost pressures for industrial bakers related to fuel and transport inputs, as well as a hike in insurance rates.
White bread is the leading choice among UK consumers, according to the Federation’s data, and accounts for 71 per cent of total bread consumption in the UK, with brown and wholemeal bread accounting for 22 per cent. Other bread types take up 7 per cent of the total bread market there.