Organic produce sees record sales in 2019: ‘Packaged salads are the single largest driver of organic dollars’

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

©GettyImages / krblokhin
©GettyImages / krblokhin

Related tags Organic Organic produce

Organic produce continues to be one of the strongest food product growth segments in the grocery channel, increasing at a much faster rate than conventional produce, according to a new report by the Organic Produce Network (OPN).

Nielsen sales data provided by OPN for the 52 weeks of 2019 vs. the same period last year showed that organic fruit and vegetable sales increased 5.1% in 2019 compared to a dollar increase of 1.9% for conventional produce. Organic fruit and vegetable volume sales increased by 4.6% compared to a volume change of 0.8% for conventional items, according to the report​. 

Geographically, organic produce increased in all US regions in 2019. The northeast showed the greatest increase in both organic dollars (+6.3%) and organic volume (+6.1%).  Conventional fruits and vegetables in the northeast registered no increase in volume and 0.6% in dollars.

The west region had the 2nd largest gain in organic produce, increasing 5.7% in dollars and 4.9% in volume.

“The largest opportunity for organic growth would appear to be in the midwest and south regions,” ​noted OPN where sales volumes are lower than in the West and Northeast regions.

Packaged salads and the power of berries

In comparison to conventional products, organic performance tends to be more concentrated around key product categories, according to OPN. 

“In organics, we see that the top 10 categories drive 61% of dollars and 69% of volume,”​ noted OPN.

“Packaged salads are the single largest driver of organic dollars. This category alone accounts for nearly 20% of all organic sales,”​ said OPN.

This shift towards packaged salads and lettuce blends is being driven by consumers’ quest for convenient, easy to prep meal solution and interest in knowing where their produce is coming from, according to FMI.

In its The Power of Produce report​, FMI noted, ”ore Millennials prefer packaged than pick-your-own produce. Shoppers do want the ability to see the items and like packaging aimed at improved shelf life. Packaging also allows for additional branding and consumer education. Shoppers have the highest interest in nutrition and origin information, and preparation/storage instructions.”

Beyond packaged salads, OPN added that “the power of the berry category cannot be overstated.”

Total berries rank second in organic dollars when the strawberry, blueberry, raspberry and blackberry categories are combined.

“These four berry products drive 15% of organic dollars. Considering the comparatively small retail footprint organic berries occupy on supermarket shelves, this is a tremendously productive revenue category for supermarkets,”​ said OPN.

Organic will continue to outpace conventional

“Organic growth in retail produce departments continues to be strong,”​ commented Matt Seeley, CEO of OPN.

“Last year, sales of organic fruits and vegetables established a new record, hitting $5.8bn in retail sales. The rate of growth has slowed slightly from previous years, but there is every reason to believe that the growth of organic fruits and vegetables will continue to outpace conventional products."

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