Despite the growing popularity of healthier food, shoppers buying organic favour small independent stores for their produce, according to a report released today.
Organic food sales are growing by£2.3 million a week, according to the report. 'This report shows that the popularity of organic food is growing steadily and the organic market has a bright future,' said Soil Association director Patrick Holden.
'Increasing numbers of people are eager to buy local to obtain the freshest organic food possible and to cut down on the environmental pollution caused by 'food miles', which is good news for small local producers.
'Some supermarkets are responding positively to the appetite for local food, but others are choosing to fly in the face of consumer expectations and government targets by increasing their reliance on imports. Imported beef and pork may be cheaper, but they mean increased food miles and are often produced to lower animal welfare standards.
'After two consecutive years in which little or no progress has been made towards the import reduction goals set in the Organic Action Plan, the Government needs to step up its efforts to get the major retailers to take its targets seriously,' he said.
Sales of organic produce through direct and alternative markets, such as veggie boxes and independent retailers, increased 'considerably' during last year. Sales of organic produce through larger multiples continued to grow, but at a much slower rate. Despite this, multiples continue to dominate the organic retail market, with estimated sales£913.2 million last year. However, their share of the organic market continues to decline, falling from 80 per cent in April 2003/2004 to 75.3 per cent in the 2004 calendar year.
Direct and alternative market sales, such as box schemes and mail order, were worth an estimated£144 million or 11.9 per cent of the market, while sales of organic products through independents were worth approximately£156 million or 12.9 per cent of the retail market.