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Organic food and drink in foodservice up 10.2%, as UK organic market enjoys sixth year of growth

The Soil Association’s 2018 Organic Market Report – launched today, 7 February – reveals spend of £84.4 million on organic in foodservice over the past year. That equates to around £1.62 million being spent on organic in the catering and foodservice sector every week across the UK.

Overall the UK organic market is now worth £2.2 billion, the highest it has ever been, growing 6% in 2017. The market has now had six years of steady growth, with organic accounting for 1.5% of the total UK food and drink market.

Key foodservice trends highlighted in the report include:

• Spend on organic through Food for Life Served Here – serving meals in schools, hospitals, workplaces and visitor attractions - grew 20% in 2017, reaching £18 million; spend has more than doubled in the past two years.
• There was a 15% increase in organic milk supplied into foodservice in 2017 – over a quarter of all organic sales in the sector are from milk.
• The Organic Served Here scheme, which highlights organic being served on the high street, has doubled its membership since launching this time last year as an increasing number of diners look for organic when eating out.

Clare McDermott, Business Development Director at Soil Association Certification, said: “Foodservice is a growing market in itself, and although right now organic still has a small share in this industry, it’s one of the fastest growing areas of the organic market and there is huge potential to accelerate that upward trend as people put more and more value on knowing where their food has come from. Our consumer research shows that a growing number of people are on the lookout for organic when they dine out, but 67% of people told us that they find it difficult to know whether organic is on the menu, which is why schemes like Organic Served Here are so important for driving more growth of organic in foodservice.”

Recent research carried out by Soil Association Certification found that half of those surveyed would be more likely to choose a restaurant that highlights its ethical and sustainable credentials, while 41% felt dishes described as ‘organic’ are more appealing. However, 67% believed it is not easy to determine whether organic food and drink is available, and 47% thought more restaurants should serve ethically or sustainably sourced dishes. The results highlight the growing demand for organic in foodservice: this is encouraging for restaurants and cafes already serving organic, but also demonstrates the opportunity for more food places to introduce organic to their menu.

There are already signs that availability of organic on the high street is on the rise, with the 2017 Out to Lunch report finding organic on the menu in twelve of the twenty five restaurant chains visited. This is double the results from the 2015 study – with Wetherspoons, Strada, Jamie’s Italian and Beefeater among those using organic ingredients.

Spend through the Food for Life Served Here scheme increased by 20% to £18 million in 2017, doubling in just two years. Chris Threadgold from Thomas Ridley Foodservice commented: “We have seen a rise in demand for organic in the cost sector and as a result have increased our organic range by 23% in the past year. This is an objective by schools to help them achieve their Food for Life Served Here certification.”

The number of silver and gold Food for Life Served Here awards, which require a minimum spend on organic, is growing. There are currently 187 award holders at silver or gold level, serving more than 1 million meals every day at schools, hospitals, workplaces and visitor attractions across the UK.

Other highlights from the report include:

• Supermarket sales of organic grew by 4.2% [1]
• Independent retailers increased sales of organic by 9.7%
• Sales of organic in home delivery, including box schemes, grew by 9.5% and now account for 13% of the organic market

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