Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has driven consumers to buy food at groceries and cook at home instead of eating out, Americans are eating more organic.
The Organic Produce Network released its 2020 Organic Produce Performance Report on Thursday, showing that sales of organic fresh produce was up 14.2 percent last year compared to 2019. Sales of conventional produce also saw a healthy increase at 10.7 percent.
The OPN said organic fresh produce sales totaled $8.54 billion in 2020, up more than $1 billion over 2019 and represented 12 percent of all fresh produce sales, citing scanned data from Nielsen.
The amount of organic fresh produce bought grew even faster. The OPN said total organic volume in 2020 increased 16 percent over 2019, while conventional produce volume rose by 9 percent. The biggest organic product driver continues to be bananas, which had a 16 percent volume increase in 2020.
The OPN noted that 2020’s organic produce sales increase reflected the pandemic that impacted sales for the last nine months of the year. This was evident in that, of the top 10 organic sales and volume categories, nine of them had double-digit growth in 2020.
Organic fresh produce by region in 2020:
- West sales increased 16.8 percent from 2019, while volume increased 17.5 percent
- Midwest sales increased 10.7 percent from 2019, while volume increased 12.0 percent
- South sales increased 14.7 percent from 2019, while volume increased 17.8 percent
- Northeast sales increased 12.7 percent, while volume increased 14.4 percent
The OPN shared that the top three 2020 sales categories for organic fresh produce were packaged salads, berries and apples, with each segment showing double-digit year-over-year gains. The categories showing the largest sales gains were herbs & spices (+26 percent) and potatoes (+21 percent). Of the top 10 sellers, organic grapes was the only one to show a decline at down 6 percent in both sales and volume.
The considerable organic produce sales growth continued through the fourth quarter of 2020, as sales of more than $2 billion were up 15 percent year-over-year, compared with a 10 percent gain in conventional produce. By volume, organic produce was up 14.4 percent, compared to 7.9 percent for conventional. Bananas (+16.0 percent), apples (+14.4 percent volume) and berries (+20.0) percent were the top three organic produce sellers.
“The continued strength of organic fruit and vegetable sales through 2020 despite pandemic-related economic challenges underscores the depth of consumer demand for organic products,” the OPN quoted Steve Lutz, senior vice president of insights and innovation at Category Partners. “Across all of 2020, organic sales growth continued to outpace conventional. As we hopefully see the pandemic begin to subside into 2021, the market opportunities for fresh organic fruits and vegetables in the coming year remain outstanding. There are wide swaths of the US where organic fruits and vegetables have limited distribution and narrow assortment in many conventional supermarkets. This indicates that across a multitude of organic produce categories, there remain significant growth opportunities both by gaining distribution but also in supplying latent consumer demand.”