Textile Exchange estimates that global retail sales of apparel, home and personal care items using organic cotton increased by 20 percent between 2009 and 2010, reaching a value of more than $5.61 billion and exceeding TE's earlier projection that they would go up to a level of $5.1 million. A similar boost in consumption is expected this year, with the market rising to $6.2 billion.

Last year's progress in consumption came in spite of the economic recession, which caused a decline in organic cotton production, reducing inventories. TE expects some improvement for the 2011-12 harvest, but finds that lack of communication between the mills and their clients is hampering sustainable growth in the sector.

TE has ranked the 10 major brands and retailers that used organic cotton in 2010. The first five are, in order, H&M, C&A, Nike, Zara and Adidas. The German sports group moved up from 11th to fifth place in the ranking.