On the eve of 2018’s Organic September, the Soil Association has heralded the continued success of organic farming as sales grew by 4% in 2018, continuing a trend that has seen seven consecutive years of growth.

Despite an exceptionally cold winter and hot, dry summer, organic dairy and fresh produce sales continue to be drivers of growth for the organic market, with both sectors showing impressive figures over the 12 months to end June 2018 [Nielsen Scantrack].

Organic produce sales grew by 5.3%, while dairy – the largest overall market sector for organic – saw sales increase by 3.5%. Both categories’ growth comfortably exceeded sales growth of their non-organic counterparts.

Liz Bowles, Soil Association’s head of farming, said: “We know that interest in organic food has been growing in recent years and it’s great to see farmers continue to be rewarded for growing food as it should be, with no artificial additives, fewer pesticides, no GM and with the highest standards of animal welfare. Sales in 2018 are continuing to grow although all UK agricultural businesses are suffering from the unprecedented drought and heat which has affected large parts of the globe.”

Consumer research undertaken by Soil Association found several key factors that have bolstered the continued growth in these categories, research that appears to be supported by this summer’s sales figures.

The research found that ‘healthiness’ and ‘taste and inspiration’ are increasingly important to consumers.

The growth in fresh produce is in line with this trend, as health-conscious consumers increasingly look to organic as a signifier of health, particularly amongst younger demographics.

The move among many to reduce meat consumption and move towards vegetarianism may also have played a role in the success of dairy, with sales of alternative protein sources up.

Rob Haward, managing director at Riverford Organic Farmers, said: “We are really optimistic about 2018. Riverford’s sales are growing faster than they have done for many years, fuelled by three things; firstly, a move towards more vegetable-based diets – something that a veg box supports brilliantly, secondly a desire to buy food with provenance and thirdly, a growing demand to buy from businesses that are ethical.”

Producers, retailers and shoppers alike will have the chance to enjoy many of these new products during Organic September, Soil Association’s annual celebration of organic food and farming.

This Organic September, Soil Association will hope to capitalise on the growing interest in and availability of organic by going back to basics with the message that organic is food as it should be.