The Soil Association’s 2013 Organic Market Report shows that the UK organic sector is continuing to fight back from the declines of recent years. The report highlights key areas of growth in online sales, box schemes and independent outlets and a shift towards younger consumers during 2012, said Rob Sexton, CEO Soil Association Certification. Overall, the market dipped by only 1.5% to 1.64 billion pounds in 2012.

The report shows that four out of five households buy organic products (80.3%). More than half of organic shoppers cite healthy eating (55%) and avoiding chemical residues (53%) as reasons to purchase. Nearly half are motivated by care for the environment and nature (44%), while around a third mention the taste of organic food (35%) and animal welfare (31%).

The Horsemeat scandal has also had a positive impact. Kantar Worldpanel figures show in February 2013 that total supermarket organic sales increased to their highest level in 9 months (up 8.4% versus January), indicating consumers choosing to buy organic as a guarantee of integrity.

The seven leading multiple retailers saw their organic sales fall by 3.8%. However, when retailers have invested, it has been successful: Waitrose’s own-label range, Duchy Originals increased its organic sales by 1.1%.

The independent sector, now valued at £480.6 million, is providing ethical consumers with a growing alternative. Independent outlets (including farm and health-food shops, farmers’ markets, catering, box schemes and mail order) saw an overall 0.7% increase in sales. Notable successes included Whole Foods Market (9% annual growth), Planet Organic (increased sales by 10%), and Unicorn Grocery in Manchester (turnover up 10%).

In supermarkets, the most popular organic purchases are dairy and ‘chilled convenience’ products (31% of spending) and fresh fruit and vegetables (23%), which between them accounted for 54 pence in every organic pound spent in 2012.

In the non-food sector, UK sales of certified organic health and beauty products increased by 5.6%, to £31.8 million. Market leader Neal’s Yard Remedies increased its organic sales by 12.9%.