The U.S. organic market hit a record $52.5 billion in 2018, up 6.3% from the previous year and breaking through the $50 billion mark for the first time.
Records were made in both food and nonfood categories. Organic food sales at $47.9 billion increased 5.9% year over year, and organic non-food sales jumped 10.6% to $4.6 billion, according to the 2019 Organic Industry Survey released May 17.
Almost 6% of all food sold in the U.S. is now organic, and growth in the organic sector continued to outpace gains in overall food and comparable nonfood sales in 2018.
Total food sales in the U.S. increased 2.3% and nonfood sales rose 3.7%, according to the Organic Trade Association, which commissioned the survey performed by Nutrition Business Journal.
“Organic is now considered mainstream,” Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director of OTA, said.
Organic products can be found in every aisle of the grocery store and in box stores, club warehouses and convenience stores and are increasingly available on the internet, she said.
The organic seal is gaining new appeal as consumers realize not only that certification is monitored and supported by official standards but it’s the only seal that encompasses the spectrum of non-GMO and free of chemicals, dyes and preservatives, she said.
The survey found sales of organic fruits and vegetables, which now account for 36.3% of all organic food sales, grew 5.6% to $17.4 billion in 2018. Organic represented nearly 15% of all produce sold in the U.S., nearly doubling market share in the last 10 years.
Sales of organic dairy and eggs, the second-largest organic sector, were $6.5 billion. Those sales increased just 0.8% due to slower dairy sales. Organic egg sales, however, increased 9.3% to $858 million.
The strongest growth in the organic nonfood sector came from fiber, which accounts for 40 percent of the organic nonfood market. Organic fiber sales in 2018 increased 12.5% to $1.8 billion.
The growth in organic sales is due in large part to industry collaboration and activism. In an environment where government is not moving fast enough, the industry is choosing to meet the consumer rather than get stalled, Batcha said.
The industry is investing in itself through OTA’s GRO Organic program, a voluntary check-off like effort to advance organic research, promotion and education. It is also actively engaged in projects to expand organic production, help transitioning farmers and get the word out to consumers on the benefits of organic, she said.
OTA also formed a task force to prevent organic fraud in the global market, which resulted in an official prevention program, she said.
The industry is also challenging USDA in court over its delay and withdrawal of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices final rule — a prime example of government slowing advancement of the organic seal, she said.
“The organic sector has come together some 20 times in the last 10 years to agree to consensus-based recommendations to strengthen the organic standards. But not a single one of these recommendations had been acted on to become a final upgraded requirement,” she said.