Supply availability hindering U.K. organic market

by Keith Nunes
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CHICAGO — The British organic food segment has been hampered by supply problems as local producers struggle to satisfy the country’s appetite for organic products, according to new research released by Mintel International.

Mintel's research found that 7 in 10 British consumers bought organic produce over the past year and sales of organic food are now worth £1.5 billion ($2.9 billion), up by some 70% since 2002. During that time, a growing awareness of food miles has shifted people’s focus toward locally sourced organic produce and as a result imported varieties now account for just 30% of the market (down from 70% in 2002).

The research firm believes the shift toward British organic food has created serious supply problems for the organic industry — there is not enough British grown organic food to satisfy demand. This in turn has held the market back from achieving its full potential.

"The lengthy conversion process from regular to organic farming takes several years to complete," said David Bird, senior market analyst for Mintel. "Because of this, many producers have not been able to react quickly to satisfy the growing demand for home grown organic food. And this has undoubtedly had a huge impact on the growth of the market."

Mintel believes as new producers enter the market and more land becomes available for organic production, the market will increase in value by approximately 54% over the five years to 2012, with the market set to break through the £2 billion mark by 2011.

While fruit, vegetables and dairy have been the most successful organic products to date, organic meat, which guarantees higher animal welfare standards, will grow 71% in the next five years — the fastest of any sector.

"Consumers are set to think more about the meat they buy following Jamie Oliver’s and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s controversial and highly emotive TV programs highlighting intensive poultry farming," Mr. Bird said.

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