SCOTLAND is leading an organic food boom, with sales growing at a rate of 19.4% last year, accounting for 6.5% of all UK sales.

According to the Soil Association’s 2018 organic market report launched this week, the UK organic market is now worth more than ever at £2.2 billion, having grown 6% in 2017, continuing the trend of the last six years. However, to put that in context, organic sales still account for only 1.5% of the total UK food and drink market.

Scotland-based Soil Association licensees reported even bigger growth at 28%, with interest in organic buoyed by strong government support through the Organic Ambitions plan, which is helping to raise public awareness. This growth looks set to continue, with 100% of Scottish independent retailers expecting organic sales to maintain or increase in 2018.

Soil Association Scotland's business development manager Isla McCulloch said: “Consumer research we carried out last year showed very clearly that people want to see organic become more available, both when shopping and eating out, with half of the people we spoke to saying they would choose a restaurant with organic and sustainable credentials over one without.

“This reflects a growing understanding of what organic really means – for health and for the environment – and is also influencing shopping habits as people put increasing importance on provenance and trust, values that organic delivers on," she said. “It is also increasingly seen as the healthy choice, so it ticks a lot of boxes for the customer.”

Key trends highlighted in the report, for the whole of the UK, include: supermarket sales of organic grew by 4.7% last year, with non-organic supermarket sales up by just over 2%. Independent retailers increased organic sales by 9.7%, while sales of organic home delivery, including box schemes, grew by 9.5% and now account for almost 13% of the organic market.

Glasgow based business Locavore run three small farms, a veg box scheme and a farm shop. Owner Reuben Chesters said: “Our box scheme has grown an awful lot in 2017, actually we’ve seen the fastest growth to date. By being organic and local, and a social enterprise, we tick quite a few boxes for environmentally conscious shoppers.”

With the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme now open for applications, more farmers can apply for support to convert their land to organic.

David Michie, head of farming and land use at Soil Association Scotland, said: “The AECS scheme has some really attractive payment rates for farmers – and with a five year contract they provide some income certainty for Scottish farmers in these uncertain times.”