Sales of organic food slump by up to 30 per cent

Supermarkets are the big losers as shoppers turn to box schemes and local shops for fresh produce

Demand for organic food has fallen faster than expected, according to new statistics about shoppers' habits. Consumers who were once prepared to pay a premium for organic produce are turning to cheaper alternatives, cutting sales by a fifth in the past year.

Although some decline was anticipated because of the recession, figures from the market research company TNS Worldpanel show that some foods have been hit hard within an overall 20 per cent drop in sales: organic bread has fallen by 31 per cent; fruit by 16.5 per cent and vegetables by 10 per cent. The company monitored the shopping habits of 25,000 households in the UK from February 2008 to February 2009.

Several of the big supermarkets confirm that some sales of organic produce have declined over this period. The Co-op said that organic meat fell by 12.5 per cent, and that sales as a whole had begun to decline since September. Tesco said: "Recently organics have declined slightly."

"A lot of this boils down to money," said Ed Garner, the communications director of TNS Worldpanel. "Premium food is under pressure and the ones that shout value are doing well. Many organic products are seen as too expensive."

As a further blow to organic producers, the category's share of the grocery market slipped from 1.4 per cent to 1.3 per cent, according to TNS Worldpanel. Justin King, the chief executive of Sainsbury's, said that customers were increasingly concerned with animal welfare and husbandry standards but organic food producers had not done a good job in communicating what it "stood for".

However, Bob Flowerdew, one of Britain's leading organic gardeners and a panel member on BBC Radio 4's Gardeners' Question Time, said that supermarkets were the big losers as people were returning to using local shops.

"Supermarkets don't offer much choice and often sell only the most expensive cuts as organic," said Mr Flowerdew. "People are realising that the internet, mail order and box schemes actually offer the best choice, freshness and value out there. It's insane to be flying stuff in that we could be growing ourselves."

In an attempt to keep the idea of sustainable consumption from collapsing in the recession, the Soil Association has helped to set up a programme encouraging people to grow their own organic food.

In the past 12 months it has helped 20 groups to set up what it calls community-supported agriculture, almost double the number set up in the previous year. The scheme involves people buying land either to farm themselves or paying a farmer to farm for them.

For a fixed fee they receive a portion of everything grown or reared on the land. Vegetables, fruit, livestock and wine are all being grown in this way.

One such scheme, the Headingley Pig Co-operative in Leeds, supplies 12 local families with pork every month. The farmer, Jo Cartwright, is paid up front, meaning she has guaranteed sales. Ms Cartwright also runs schemes for chicken and vegetables and has almost 90 customers in total. Members of the vegetable scheme help with weeding, planting and harvesting, which keeps costs down.

"I wish I could sell all my produce this way," said Ms Cartwright. "When I go to market I know that I'll sell my produce at a fair price. It guarantees that I'll always be able to pay for feed in advance, and means that I can plan for the future."

Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas