The UK organic market is now worth more than ever at £2.2 billion, 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. This is the findings from The Soil Association’s 2018 Organic Market Report.

Supermarket sales of organic grew by 4.2% in 2017, independent retailers increased sales of organic by 9.7% and sales for home delivery, including box schemes, grew by 9.5%. In restaurants and other catering services sales grew by 10.2%

Dairy sales still have the highest share of the organic food and drink market at nearly 29% and increased last year by 3.1%.

Sales of meat, fish and poultry grew by 4.1% and fresh produce, up 6.5%, had the highest value growth, equating to over £20m in sales.

In 2017, the amount of farmland in conversion to organic rose 22% as farmers responded to the rise in demand for organic produce. This is likely to continue to increase.

Adam Wakeley of Organic Farm Foods said: “Organic fruit has been a star performer over the past year, and we’ve certainly seen all of fresh organic produce grow. One reason is down to an evolving consumer profile – millennials are now our biggest customer group, and they show a huge interest in food provenance and health. They understand that having food grown in an environmentally friendly way is a good thing. We believe their attitude is here to stay, and will continue to drive growth in the future.”

While sales of organic food in supermarkets continue to rise, this year has seen booming sales in independent retail and home delivery. Expanding online ranges, and growing interest in box schemes, means these areas are now growing at a faster rate than supermarket, and between them account for almost 30% of the organic market.

For some farmers these alternative routes to market, coupled with the increased consumer interest in food provenance, have been crucial to their success. Eversfield Organic sells its organic meat almost exclusively online and through small retailers and, despite not selling in supermarkets, the company’s sales grew by 20% last year.

Mark Bury, Managing Director of Eversfield Organic, says quality and convenience are key: “People always ask about where their meat comes from, and over the past few years we’ve seen a massive change of people wanting to understand what organic farming is all about. Customers are looking for convenience and for suppliers that meet their values. We’re seeing people change the way they buy meat, buying less, but buying better quality cuts of meat.”

Helen Browning, Soil Association Chief Executive, said: “It’s great that organic is seeing consistently strong growth in the UK, and that people are supporting organic farmers by putting trust in their produce. Trust is something that’s increasingly important: people want to understand where their food has come from, how it has been produced, and more and more shoppers want to buy local and British. The customer is increasingly interested in the provenance and traceability of their food, and this is an area organic can really deliver on."