Wales’s ‘Jamie Generation’ fuels growth in sustainable food sales
A recent UK survey revealed strong growth in organic food sales from independent retailers, with some online retailers experiencing double-digit growth in an otherwise flat consumer market. The survey also revealed that the youngest organic consumers (under 28s) are spending more than they did last year on organic, leading this group of ethically-aware consumers to be dubbed “The Jamie Generation” in the Soil Association's 2013 Market Report.
The UK has also seen a growth in organic food sales direct to the consumer, a trend that has been echoed in many parts of Wales. Almost a third (28%) of Welsh organic producers involved in direct sales reported growth over the last 12 months, according to the latest Organic Producers Survey, commissioned by Organic Centre Wales. A further 55% claimed that sales had remained consistent with the previous 12 months, despite the toughening economic climate.
Steve Garrett founded Cardiff's successful Riverside Market and is also involved in various community agriculture schemes, including the Riverside Market Garden in St Hilary in the Vale of Glamorgan. His experience echoes the findings of the report;
“Our farmers' market sales had dipped but are now coming back strongly, mainly I think due to an increasing interest from people who want to know where their food comes from and a growing distrust of the supermarkets and the wider food industry. The same thing is happening with our community supported agriculture projects, where meat sales in particular are booming and interest is growing from people who want to eat well and know where their food is coming from. Food budgets remain a concern for lots of people but eating well doesn't need to be expensive.”
“The way people think about organic is also changing. It's no longer just for Volvo owners with lots of spare cash, but something that everyone can be a part of. There are many different reasons for choosing organic, including traceability, sustainability and animal welfare. There have been studies that have questioned the health benefits but health is about the whole picture – the health of the soil should really be a 'no-brainer' and this needs to become a stronger part of the organic brand so that people can understand what it really means.”
Despite the encouraging sales figures in the Welsh Organic Producers Survey, a combination of changes to support payments and increases in feed costs has severely dented confidence levels amongst producers, with almost half (47%) of organic farmers in Wales considering reverting to non-organic methods over the next two years.
“Organic certification has an important role to play as a guarantee of provenance and farming methods – there aren't any labels for local or sustainable food,” commented Garrett. “It is a shame that so many organic farmers in Wales are considering giving up on their certification. One of the reasons that we are continuing with our own organic farm is because we feel it gives us a competitive advantage – we are now selling to lots of restaurants who want to be able to give their customers the kind of guarantees that come with organic.”
Garrett was unsurprised by the rise in sales of organic produce amongst younger consumers shown in The Soil Association's 2013 Market Report and offered some insight into why this could be happening;
“I am sure there is a little bit of activism involved here, fuelled by the growth in social media and probably quite topical in the light of the recent Thatcherism debates. Young people are becoming more interested in sustainability and many of them are uncomfortable with the way the food industry has gone. Cardiff University has its own food co-op and we've worked with several student bodies that are looking into sustainability in the sector, as well as schools that want to set up their own farmers' markets and box schemes.”
1. About the Welsh Organic Producer Survey
The Welsh Organic Producer Survey has been commissioned by Organic Centre Wales on an annual basis since 2007. The 2012 survey was undertaken via a series of telephone interviews conducted during October and November 2012. Data has been drawn from 647 completed surveys (representing 64% of all certified organic producers) and extrapolated to give pan-Wales results using formulas consistent with previous studies. A copy of the full report can be found online at: http://www.organiccentrewales.org.uk/uploads/ocw_producer_survey_report_2012_final_executive_summary.pdf
Welsh Organic Producer Survey Press enquiries:
Jenny Mills, Communications Officer, Organic Centre Wales -01970 823029
The 2013 Soil Association Organic Market Report
Download the Soil Association's Organic Market report 2013, sponsored by Triodos bank here:www.soilassociation.org/marketreport