Organic food and drink sales in Italy have been dramatically outpacing conventional, according to data from Nielsen.

The findings were presented by the Italian organic grouping AssoBio at the recent TuttoFood exhibition in Milan.

AssoBio presented Nielsen data on the trend of organic food sales in Italian supermarkets. In this sales channel, from January to April, 2017, total food sales increased by 3.7%. Sales of organic products in supermarkets, meanwhile, increased by 19.7%, totalling EUR 1.33 billion in the twelve months ending March 31, 2017.

Strongest growth was recorded by the discounters (+ 31.7%) and in superettes – mini-marts – (+ 23.5%). Supermarkets, with sales of EUR 609 million saw growth of + 19.8%, and hypermarkets, with sales of EUR 409 million saw 16.7% growth.

Source: AssoBio/Nielsen

Organic’s share of total food and drink sales in Italy is also growing, standing at 3.4% in 2016, compared to 2% in 2013.

Organic pentration is highest in Northern Italy, and lowest in the South. The most frequent purchasers are families of three to four members, and age groups 35-44 and 45-54. Penetration is practically the same in households with under average, medium and high income, while it is lower in low-income households.

Thriving specialist channel
While AssoBio’s presentation focused its conference on supermarket channel, it points out that there is a thriving specialist organic retail channel too. These stores number around 1,250 across Italy, with a stronger concentration in Northern and Central regions – around 350 are supermarket-sized with a range of around 4,500 food items.

Italy has a strong specialist natural and organic retail channel

AssoBio estimates 2016 sales of EUR 890 million in the specialized channel. It says food service is worth around EUR 350 million (the daily use of organic products in schoolmeals is compulsory in Italy), while other channels (direct sales, farmer’s market, box schemes, on-line, small non specialized food shops) add up to EUR 380 million.

Main image, European Commission