Organic produce

Organic food sales increased at a record pace in 2020, according to the Organic Trade Association.

U.S. organic sales reached new highs in 2020, jumping by a record 12.4% to $61.9 billion. It marked the first time that total sales of organic food and non-food products surpassed the $60 billion mark.

The annual growth rate was more than twice the 2019 pace of 5%, according to the 2021 Organic Industry Survey released this week by the Organic Trade Association.

Demand jumped by near-record levels in almost every organic food aisle in 2020, increasing U.S. organic food sales a record 12.8% to a new high of $56.4 billion. Almost 6% of all food sold in the U.S. in 2020 was certified organic.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused consumer dollars to shift almost overnight from restaurants and carry-out to groceries. Consumer habits were upended, online grocery shopping and grocery deliveries exploded and new products were tried as families ate three meals a day at home, the Organic Trade Association reported.

“The pandemic caused abrupt changes in all of our lives. We’ve been eating at home with our families, and often cooking three meals a day,” said Laura Batcha, the association’s CEO and executive director.

“Good, healthy food has never been more important, and consumers have increasingly sought out the organic label,” she said.

Fresh organic produce sales rose by nearly 11% in 2020 to $18.2 million. Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables also jumped with frozen sales alone rising by more than 28%.

Including frozen, canned and dried products, total sales of organic fruit and vegetables in 2020 were $20.4 billion. More than 15% of the fruits and vegetables sold in U.S were organic.

Pantry stocking was overwhelmingly the main growth driver in 2020. Sales of organic flours and baked goods grew by 30%.

Sales of sauces and spices pushed the $2.4 billion condiments category to a growth rate of 31%, and organic spice sales jumped by 51% — more than triple the growth rate of 15% in 2019.

Meat, poultry and fish, the smallest of the organic categories at $1.7 billion, had the second-highest growth rate of nearly 25 percent.

“The only thing that constrained growth in the organic food sector was supply,” said Angela Jagiello, the association’s director of education and insights.

“Across all the organic categories, growth was limited by supply, causing producers, distributors, retailers and brands to wonder where numbers would have peaked if supply could have been met,” she said.

Ingredients and packaging were both in short supply, as were workers and drivers to transport product.

The organic non-food category did not see the same exceptional growth in 2020 as organic food, but its growth held steady with prior years. Sales of organic non-food products reached $5.4 billion, up 8.5% and only slightly below the 9.2% growth reported in 2019.

This year’s survey was conducted from January through March by Nutrition Business Journal. Nearly 200 companies completed a significant portion of the in-depth survey.

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