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Sales of Organic Food Slump By Up To 30 Percent

 Sales of Organic Food Slump By Up To 30 Percent

Shoppers cut back on buying organic foods in the supermarket.

Paul Bignell and David Birchall | UK Independant

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.