US sales of organic food have more than tripled since 2000, from 1.2 percent of total food sales to 3.7 percent last year, to reach $24.8bn, the report said. And the organic sector has continued to grow at a faster rate than the food industry as a whole. US organic food sales were up five percent last year, while general food sales grew by just two percent.
OTA’s Executive Director Christine Bushway said: “These findings are indicative that even in tough times, consumers understand the benefits that organic products offer and will make other cuts before they give up products they value.”
However, growth for the sector was down on previous years. In 2008, sales of organic foods were up 15.8 percent compared to a year earlier. Last year, sales were up five percent.
Nevertheless, organic food sales have been much more resilient in the economic downturn than many had predicted. A year ago, forecasts for the sector were gloomy, with market researchers envisaging a slump in demand for more pricy products, including organic foods and beverages, but this has not happened.
Growth for the sector last peaked in 2006, at 21 percent, the OTA reported. The average annual growth rate for organic foods was 19 percent from 1997-2008.
While fruit and vegetables still made up the largest portion of organic food and drink sales, at 38 percent, dairy accounted for 15 percent, packaged foods for 14 percent and beverages for 13 percent of the market in 2009. This was followed by 11 percent for breads and grains, five percent for snack foods, and two percent each for condiments and meat, poultry and fish.