“We really moved beyond” the “old assumptions about organic being niche and having sort of a cultural blanket over it,” said CEO of OTA Laura Batcha.
Sales of organic food climbed 11% to $35.9 billion in 2014, and while consumers in blue states in New England and the Pacific Northwest continue to lead the charge, shoppers in the red dominated mountain and south Atlantic regions were not far behind, Batcha said, citing data released April 15 from the association’s annual Organic Industry Survey.
Specifically, she noted the sales penetration is highest in New England at 87% and the Pacific Northwest at 86% as expected, but sales penetration in the mountain region is a close 82% and penetration in South Atlantic reached 79% last year based on the purchase of organic CPG coded products.
The West South Central region, including the stalwart Republican states of Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Louisiana even had penetration of 75%, according to the survey.
“This additional new data prove [organic] doesn’t have regional or partisan boundaries,” Batcha said in a prepared statement.
She added at the association’s policy conference in Washington, D.C., April 15 that additional data show “strong growth in areas that historically haven’t seen the growth.”
For example, the No. 1 market for organic sales growth in 2014 was Salt Lake City with 34% year-over-year growth, followed by Dallas-Fort Worth, which grew 32%, and Phoenix-Tucson, which increased 31%.
These results follow the association’s recent announcement that organic shoppers are more ethnically diverse now than previously with 14% of black and 16% of Hispanic households buying organic in 2014.
Growth despite supply crunch
The growth in organic sales in 2014 is “striking” because it occurred in the face of increasing and “very dramatic” supply shortages, Batcha said.
The trade group underscored that currently organic sales account for 4% of total food sales, while acreage devoted to organic agriculture is less than 1% of total U.S. cropland.
“There is a huge opportunity for rural communities to fill this demand,” OTA said in materials prepared for the conference.
In particular, organic fruit and vegetables offer potential as they continue to be the largest selling category in 2014 with $13 billion in sales – a 12% increase from 2013.
Organic dairy also offers opportunity with an 11% increase in sales to $5.46 billion in 2014 – the largest increase for the category in six years, according to OTA.