Robert Lambert, marketing & communications head at Ulrick & Short, which last month launched a range of organic bakery ingredients, on the development of the UK organic market.
As a whole, the organic sector in the UK has just experienced its sixth consecutive year of growth, and is now worth over £2.3bn, according to Soil Association figures.
However, organic food still only accounts for 1.5% of UK food purchases, and there are a number of reasons why organic bakery hasn’t taken off so far in the UK.
Firstly, organic produce was not received well in the British press, and there were a series of academic reports undermining its potential health benefits.
But the main reason the UK has not embraced organic produce is higher pricing; one survey from 2016 indicated organic options were 89% more expensive than non-organic produce.
This vast price differential is compounded in the UK by the lack of domestic organic farmland. For instance, in the US, one report noted a considerably lower price differential of 47% across 100 product pairings between organic and non-organic products.
Moreover, UK farmers have benefited less than their European counterparts from European subsidies. Therefore, the UK has a far smaller proportion of organic farmland compared to the US and the rest of the EU – at just 2.8% organic farmland, compared with 6.8% in Germany, 8.5% in Spain and 21.3% in Austria.
Hence, organic bakery was not embraced by retailers or large manufacturers, and was largely confined to specialist online retailers, and artisan bakeries and cafés. But this is changing.
Consumer markets and mentalities have fundamentally altered. Ethical considerations are now more at the forefront of the mind of 2019 consumers, who have more information at their fingertips and expect a level of corporate responsibility and authenticity from bakers and manufacturers. This is only going to grow as the organic badge gives consumers the reassurance and confidence to know that what they are eating is being held to rigorous ethical and sustainability standards.
Research conducted by the European Parliament provides an interesting insight into this phenomenon, finding that three-quarters of consumers associate organic produce with better ethical standards, greater transparency and sustainable environmental practices.
The UK organic bakery market is still in its infancy. It represents both a nascent and highly exciting sector, one which is growing and will inevitably grow further.