Organic dinner of colorful grains, vegetables, and fruits

Organic – It’s What’s for Dinner

Denis Storey
May 24, 2018

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Americans’ hunger for organic food rages on. Even though many thought the trend peaked back in 2006, its popularity continues to surge, outlasting faddier consumer food flings such as cupcakes and the South Beach Diet. 

Despite the naysayers, organic food sales shattered another record last year. U.S. consumers bought a record $50.1 billion worth of organic food in 2019, a 4.6% jump over the year before, according to the latest numbers from the Organic Trade Association. That continues to outstrip overall food sales, which grew by 2.6% in 2019. Organic food sales make up about 5.8% of all the retail food sold in the United States. 

“Our 2020 survey looks at organic sales in 2019 before the coronavirus outbreak. It shows that consumers were increasingly seeking out the Organic label to feed their families the healthiest food possible. The pandemic has only increased our desire for clean, healthy food,” Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association, said in a release announcing the numbers. “Our normal lives have been brought to a screeching halt by the coronavirus. The Organic label’s commitment has always resided at the intersection of health and safety, and we expect that commitment to strengthen as we all get through these unsettled times.”

‘We’ve Come a Long Way, Food Baby’

When Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act in 1990, which signed off on the Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program, total organic sales in the United States had already reached $1 billion.

But the association didn’t start tracking organic food sales until 1998. That year, which gave us Red Bull and Splenda, organic food sales totaled $3.4 billion. Since then, the market has exploded, with most of that growth taking place over the last decade. And while sales have leveled off over the past couple of years, organic food continues to gobble up market share. There’s a reason Amazon shelled out more than $13 billion for Whole Foods. 

“It’s hard to know what’s ahead of us, but consumers will continue to trust in and depend on the Organic label,” Batcha added. “Organic producers and processors – indeed the entire organic supply chain – have been working around the clock through this difficult time to keep our stores filled with healthy, toxin-free, and sustainably produced organic food and products. Organic is going to be there for the consumer.”

Breakdown of Organic Food Sales

Fruits and vegetables continue to lead the way in organic food sales, ringing up $18 billion in sales last year.

Eggs and dairy held steady as second in organic sales, growing almost 2% with $6.6 billion in sales. According to the survey, organic meat, poultry, and fish remained the smallest natural food category in 2019, with $1.4 billion in sales. Still, the segment grew nearly 10%, outpacing every other organic food category.

Unlike many other food trends over the years, organic options are here to stay and represent the industry’s best growth and innovation opportunities. 

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