Box sales boom as organic food market nears £2bn

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Home delivery of fruit and vegetables has surged in popularity as Britain's organic market approaches £2bn a year. Sales of box schemes run by firms including Abel & Cole and Riverford rose in value by 53 per cent to £146m last year, the Soil Association said.

Box schemes have become a popular way for shoppers to buy organic fresh produce and Sainsbury and Tesco have entered the market. But 40 per cent of sales still come from farmers who deliver food grown in their fields or raised in their barns, according to the 2006 Organic Market Report. Overall sales of organic products rose by 22 per cent to £1.93bn, with annual growth of 27 per cent in the past decade.

Launched to coincide with the start of Organic Fortnight, the report revealed that organic health and beauty products boomed last year as consumers sought more natural alternatives to chemical-based lotions, with the number of products rising 30 per cent. At current growth rates, the UK market for products made with organic cotton will be worth £107m by 2008.

Free-range and organic outstripped eggs from caged birds for the first time. And far more land is expected to be turned over to organic production in the next two years, with a 40 per cent rise in conversions across the UK in 2006. But there was a 7 per cent dip in the overall amount of organic land, due to the end of a subsidy scheme for Scottish estates.