Organic fresh produce sales in 2020 were approximately $8.5bn, an increase of over $1bn from 2019, and represented 12% of all fresh produce sales, according to scanned data from Nielsen provided in the Organic Produce Network's report. By comparison, conventional produce sales rose 10.7% for the year.
Like many other changes to the grocery landscape, the pandemic and consumers' growing preference for fresh foods played a significant role in the sales lift, said the report.
“In the face of restaurant restrictions and closures and elevated sales across the entire supermarket as consumers turned to at-home eating, organic fresh produce sales surged last year, with consumers looking for healthy, safe, and wholesome meal options for their families,” said Matt Seeley, CEO of the Organic Produce Network.
Packaged salads, berries, and apples register largest sales gains
Nine out of the top 10 organic sales and volume categories experienced double-digit growth in 2020, according to the report.
The top three categories by total sales for 2020 were packaged salads, berries (strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries), and apples, with each segment registering double-digit gains over the prior year, noted the Organic Produce Network.
The categories with the largest year-over-year sales increases were herbs and spices (+26%) and potatoes (+21%) as consumers shifted towards preparing more meals at home than they had in 2019, said the report.
In terms of top categories by volume growth, bananas registered the largest gains with 16% followed by apples with 14.1% volume growth from 2019.
Significant growth opportunities ahead
Growth of the organic produce category was widespread and in all four US geographic regions sales were up by double digits in 2020.
According to the report, the west showed the biggest increases in sales (16.8%) and volume (17.5%) over the previous year. The south climbed in organic produce consumption, with sales of over $2.5bn, an increase of 14.7% from 2019, and volume up 17.8% over the same period.
“The continued strength of organic fruit and vegetable sales through 2020 despite pandemic-related economic challenges underscores the depth of consumer demand for organic products,” said Steve Lutz, SVP of insights and innovation at Category Partners.
Lutz noted the opportunity for further growth for organic produce and distribution networks expand.
"As we hopefully see the pandemic begin to subside into 2021, the market opportunities for fresh organic fruits and vegetables in the coming year remain outstanding. There are wide swaths of the US where organic fruits and vegetables have limited distribution and narrow assortment in many conventional supermarkets.
"This indicates that across a multitude of organic produce categories, there remain significant growth opportunities both by gaining distribution but also in supplying latent consumer demand," said Lutz.