Importance of organic continues to rise, as sales hit $55.1 billion

The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic this year already had dramatic consequences for the organic sector in 2020. As shoppers search for healthy, clean food to feed their at-home families, organic food is proving to be the food of choice for home.

Many solid-growth organic categories have seen demand exploding so far in 2020. After jumping by more than 50 percent in the early days of kitchen stocking, organic produce sales were up more than 20 percent in the spring of 2020. Influenced by COVID-19, all of the staples categories, from dairy and eggs, to breads, pastas, rice and grains and baking supplies, such as flour and baking yeast, are expected to see increased growth in 2020, provided supply can meet demand. In the non-food organic market, organic vitamins and immunity-related products are expected to see strong growth, as are organic supplements and household products.

Conducting an online flash poll of  3,188 “likely organic” shoppers in late April and early May, the Organic Trade Association found more than 90 percent of respondents indicated that in their current food shopping, organic is more important than ever.

Today’s interest in organic may be intensified, but organic’s growing popularity isn’t new. Consumers are eating more organic food and using more organic products than ever before, according to the 2020 Organic Industry Survey released in June by the Organic Trade Association along with an insights supplement on the impact of COVID-19 on the organic sector. The U.S. organic market posted a banner year in 2019, with organic sales in the food and non-food markets totaling a record $55.1 billion, up a solid 5 percent from the previous year.

Both the food and non-food markets shattered major benchmarks. Organic food sales hit $50.1 billion, up 4.6 percent. Organic non-food sales totaled just over $5 billion, up a strong 9.2 percent. Both sectors easily outpaced the general market growth rate of around 2 percent for total food sales and of just 3 percent for total non-food sales.

Organic food sales

During 2019, organic produce maintained its top position Organic fruit and vegetable sales were up nearly 5 percent, hitting $18 billion, as the category continues to be the star of the organic sector, and often the starting point for organic food buying. Organic produce makes up almost a third of all organic food sales, and organic fruits and vegetables, including fresh, frozen, canned, and dried, have now captured 15 percent of the fruits and vegetables market in this country.

Meanwhile, the $6.6 billion category grew at a rate of almost 2 percent. Organic dairy is growing faster than the conventional market, with the overall dairy category growing only 0.2 percent. Organic dairy and eggs accounted for just over 8 percent of the total dairy and eggs market.

Organic meat, poultry, and fish remained the smallest organic food category, with $1.4 billion in sales, but the segment also saw almost 10 percent growth, the highest growth of any organic food category. Organic poultry remained the organic protein of choice, and the $865 million poultry market made up more than half of the sales for the organic meat, poultry and seafood category.

Although organic condiments is the second smallest organic food category, a few of its products saw some of the biggest growth. Sales of organic ethnic sauces – curry, chipotle, sriracha, Korean BBQ – reached $77 million for the strongest growth rate ever of more than 23 percent. Organic ketchup sales also spiked in 2019 to $57 million, up almost 16 percent, thanks to the addition of sugar-free and low sugar offerings. Organic spices recorded $345 million in sales with more than 15 percent growth.

Organic non-food market

The organic non-food market crossed the $5 billion mark in 2019 for the first time, with strong growth of 9.2 percent. It now accounts for just over 9 percent of total organic sales. Growing concerns about toxins and chemicals not just in our bodies, but also on our skin, in our homes, and in our environment, along with wider availability of products, have created a robust market for the organic non-food sector.  Fiber sales – sales of clothing, bedding, mattresses -- continued to lead the sector, and crossed the $2 billion mark in 2019, up just over 12 percent. Organic dietary supplements also were a standout, with sales up just over 10 percent to a record $1.7 billion.

The full report and accompanying COVID-19 data supplement are free for Organic Trade Association members. Request your copy from //