Posted on April 16, 2020 by Sustainable Food News

U.S. organic produce sales soar 22% in March to $547 mil’

Yet, organic produce dollar and volume growth rate fell compared to Q1 2019, says Organic Produce Network report

U.S. retail sales of organic fresh produce last month jumped 22 percent to $547 million, and 26 percent by volume, as the Covid-19 pandemic spurred unprecedented consumer purchases.

That’s according to a new report on organic fresh produce sold at retail nationwide in the first quarter of 2020 prepared by Category Partners LLC for the Organic Produce Network, LLC (OPN), an online and live content programming group for the organic fresh produce industry.

According to the report, which was based on retail sales scan data from Nielsen, sales of the top 10 organic produce items accounted for 59 percent of dollars and 71 percent of volume in the first quarter.

“For organics, supermarket assortment and inventory are tighter and there are simply fewer choices,” the report said. “This means fewer ‘second choice’ organic selling opportunities for retailers and fewer alternatives for consumers if their preferred organic item had sold out.”

Overall, the dollar increase in organic fruit and vegetable sales for the first quarter was up 8 percent to $1.6 billion, as January and February sales came in at 1.8 percent.

Overall first quarter sales by volume was up by 10 percent, while sales of conventional fruit and vegetables grew by 6.6 percent in dollars and 7.7 percent in volume.

The report also said that both dollar and volume rate of growth for organic produce fell compared to the first quarter of 2019.

Organic dollar share increased to 9.8 percent of total produce and organic volume share increased to 5.5 percent of total produce in the first quarter, the report said.

Organic packaged salads, apples and bananas generated more than 35 percent of total organic produce dollar growth in the first quarter.

Organic bananas, carrots and apples generated 44 percent of total organic volume, with bananas increasing volume growth by 20 percent.

“What we see in the Nielsen data is that organic produce at retail is concentrated within fewer categories than conventional produce, especially in the winter months when locally produced organic products are less available,” said Steve Lutz, senior vice president at Category Partners.

The report also said that first quarter organic produce sales were strongest in the western U.S. with all-commodity volume (the percentage of sales in all grocery categories generated by stores) performance 34 percent of the U.S. average.

U.S. retail sales of organic fresh produce totaled $5.8 billion in 2019, a 5.1 percent increase over 2018, when sales hit $5.6 billion, which was a 17 percent increase over 2017, when the figure hit $4.8 billion, an 8 percent increase over 2016.

Check out the report here.

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