Melanie Fryer, an engaged Food Citizen and active member of FoodFutures, reports on the growth of the UK organic food market in 2020.

Surprisingly, 2020 has seen a very positive trend in organic food sales. In spite of, or maybe thanks to, restricted shopping options and a scramble to get fresh ingredients, the year saw a 12.6 per cent  increase in organic food sales.

Organic produce and dairy sales were up by 3.7 per cent and 3.5 per cent, respectively, with the highest growth in milk. 

The pandemic has led to a greater appreciation of food for many, which has helped increase sales of organic. As people are spending more time at home, a greater number are cooking from scratch, baking and growing their own food. But even as shoppers’ confidence in their own finances is low due to an expected rise in food prices because of the Covid-19 pandemic, trust in the grocery industry is at a high. We have seen new levels of appreciation for the complexity, care, and hard work that goes into feeding the nation. 

The pandemic was a catalyst that caused a major shift to online shopping. Where online markets and box schemes were once the alternative, suddenly these shops with the broadest range of organic choices were being inundated with new customers.

Confidence in organic produce grew as well. One study reported 41 per cent of respondents agreed that buying organically produced foods was good for sustainability at the beginning of 2020, but by July, the number had jumped to 50 per cent. 

Even as it looks like the positive trend in organic sales will continue during 2021, the concern is the increased demand is being met by imports whilst UK farmers seem reluctant to change from conventional methods. 

Organic or holistic systems generally do not use antibiotics or pesticides, the soil is seen as the vital component that is managed for nutrient cycles, controlling floods, supporting pollinators and negating climate change. Homemade and animal fertilisers are used instead of chemical fertilisers and impacts the nutritional value of produce for animal and human health.

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