Organic – It’s What’s for Dinner

by | May 31, 2021

Americans’ hunger for organic food and beverages persists. Even though many thought the trend peaked more than decade ago, its popularity continues to surge, outlasting consumer fads like the South Beach Diet.

Despite the critics, sales shattered another record – during a pandemic no less. U.S. consumers bought a record $61.9 billion worth of organic goods in 2020, a 12.4% jump over 2019, according to the latest numbers from the Organic Trade Association (OTA).  Food made up the bulk of that growth, totaling $56.48 billion in sales. In 2020, organic food sales made up nearly 6% of all the retail food sold in the United States. 

“The pandemic caused abrupt changes in all of our lives,” Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the OTA, explained. “We’ve been eating at home with our families, and often cooking three meals a day. Good, healthy food has never been more important, and consumers have increasingly sought out the organic label. Purchases have skyrocketed as shoppers choose high-quality organic to feed and nourish their families.”

Organic’s come a long way

When Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act in 1990, which signed off on the Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program, total U.S. sales 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, 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 leveled off before the pandemic, natural food continues to gobble up market share. There’s a reason Amazon shelled out more than $13 billion for Whole Foods. 

“The only thing that constrained growth in the organic food sector was supply,” Angela Jagiello, Director of Education & Insights for the OTA, said. “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!”

Breakdown of organic sales

Fresh produce lead the way, ringing up $18.2 billion in 2020 sales. According to the survey, meat, poultry, and fish remained the smallest natural food category in 2020, but saw impressive growth, tallying $1.7 billion in sales.

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

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