Page last updated at 22:53 GMT, Monday, 21 September 2009 23:53 UK

Organic food firms eyeing revival

Organic produce
A report this year found little benefit in organic produce

Some of the biggest names in the UK's organic food industry are meeting later to find ways to revive flagging sales.

The supermarkets, farmers and producers have seen the recession lead to a big drop in customers prepared to pay for most types of organic produce.

But industry body, the Organic Trade Board, - says it aims to see sales grow by 50% to more than £3bn - by 2015.

It says it will engage with retailers and customers to promote the benefit of selling and buying organic.

Bread sinks

When the economy was buoyant, more and more shoppers wanted to buy organic.

But sales growth came to a crashing halt when the recession arrived and in the past year, the organic sector has been shrinking as customers look for cheaper alternatives.

Sales of organic vegetables are down 19% while demand for organic wine and bread sales have fallen to just half what it was a year ago.

However some organic products - such as milk and peanut butter - are still getting more popular.

The meeting will include representatives from Tesco, organic milk co-operative OMSCO, chocolate maker Green & Blacks, and yogurt firm Yeo Valley.

"The need to get the organic message across to consumers is always quoted as the biggest barrier to sales growth and with this initiative, we have the opportunity to speak with one voice and engage in a plan designed to grow the market and spread the positive benefits of organic produce," said Huw Bowles, chairman of the Organic Trade Board.

Better research

Earlier this year a large independent review concluded that organic food was no healthier than ordinary food.

UK researchers found there was little difference in nutritional value and no evidence of any extra health benefits from eating organic produce.

The Food Standards Agency, which commissioned the report, said the findings would help people make an "informed choice".

But the Soil Association criticised the study and called for better research on the long-term effects of pesticides on health.

It said existing research of comparisons between organic and non-organic nutritional differences had been rejected by the study.

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