Organic food sales fall in credit crunch

Shoppers bought fewer organic fruit and vegetables last year while the economy deteriorated, according to the Soil Association.

In its 2008 market report, the biggest certifier of organic food revealed that sales of fruit fell by 4.9 per cent and vegetables by 13.5 per cent.

Sales of meat dropped by 13 per cent, partly due to higher prices from more expensive feed. Poultry rose 17 per cent over 2008, helped by chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's campaign against the factory farming of chickens in January, although they slumped 25 per cent in the last quarter.

Organic sales fell by volume but rose by 1.7 per cent in value to £2.1bn. Despite the decline of organic fruit and vegetables, subject to a debate over value for money, the figures suggest British consumers are cooking more. Organic convenience foods fell by 5.9 per cent, while cooking ingredients rose 13.5 per cent. Clothing and health and beauty products grew sharply and organic cotton sales hit £100m.

Peter Melchett, the Soil Association's policy director, said: "This has been a really difficult period for all retail, and organic sales have suffered along with the rest of the economy. But those consumers who are committed to organic products appear to be staying loyal. This shows the underlying resilience of the organic market, which we believe will grow again once the economy picks up."

Asda saw a 25 per cent increase in organic sales, as consumers switched allegiance and the store integrated organic and non-organic products. Organic sales fell at Tesco, Sainsbury's and Waitrose.

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