LONDON: Consumers in the UK have continued to increase their expenditure on products with strong ethical credentials despite the challenging economic climate.

A report from the Co-operative Group, which trades in areas from retail to financial services, found that goods explicitly positioned as being "sustainable" saw sales rise by 8.8% to £46.8bn in 2010.

This represented 9% of all public expenditure, measured against a modest 3%, or £13.5bn, when the organisation first began tracking figures in 1999.

Moreover, this surge in demand could be compared with an expansion of 0.4% in total consumer spending last year.

Revenues for food products carrying the Fairtrade insignia leapt by 36% to just over £1bn, while eco-friendly power generation tools like solar panels and small wind turbines were up 386% to £248m.

Hybrid, reduced-emission and electric cars enjoyed a 129% lift, attaining a value of £846m, constituting huge growth from £4m in 1999.

Less positively, organic food sales shrank by 10% to £1.5bn, well down from the high-point of £2bn recorded in 2008.

As a whole, ethical food and drink sales climbed by 5.1% to £6.6bn. Sustainable fish logged one of the greatest increases, up 16.3% to £207m.

Numerous brand owners have been quick to tap in to the wider trend, with Cadbury, now part of Kraft, securing Fairtrade recognition for its Dairy Milk chocolate range in 2009.

Nestlé followed the same route for Kit Kat, as did Mars for Maltesers. Tate & Lyle has also achieved accreditation for some of its lines in the sugar segment.

Similarly, supermarkets have, in many instances, introduced own-label tea and coffee benefitting from the equivalent status.

"There was also a feeling at the start of the downturn that retailers would start pulling these things off their shelves and that has not happened," said Barry Calvin, of the Co-op. "It's selling so it keeps its space."

Data sourced from Financial Times/The Independent; additional content by Warc staff