As an example, he said the last Washington apple crop was about 9% organic, and moving the fruit was not difficult.
“The demand is there,” he said.
Oxnard, Calif.-based grower-shipper Deardorff Family Farms is reporting a 50% increase in total organic volume for the past year, said Tom Deardorff, president.
“We still see market demand for it is really ahead of what we can do from a production standpoint because it still takes time to convert from conventional ground,” he said.
Prices are firm but not stratospheric, Deardorff said.
“It doesn’t overreact, doesn’t go astronomically high, but the premium is there to kind of reallocate resources from conventional into organic,” he said.
Sales have been steady at Earl’s Organic, a San Francisco wholesaler, said founder and owner Earl Herrick.
Increased year-around availability has fueled growth, Herrick said.
Diane Dempster, manager of Farmer’s Own, the local organic program at Charlie’s Produce, a Seattle wholesaler, said sales continue to rise.
“We’ve got more stores increasing volume, and sales have been on a steady climb through the recession and up beyond that since then,” she said.
The category is graduating into the realm of “mainstream” offerings, said Cherie France, sales and marketing assistant for Homegrown Organic Farms, Porterville, Calif.
“The market will continue to evolve into a normal, everyday item versus the ‘specialized’ item it has been in the past,” she said.
One illustration of the organic category’s maturity can be found in the varieties of apples available, said Roger Pepperl, marketing director with Stemilt Growers Inc., based in Wenatchee, Wash.
“It used to be organic reds and organic golds 10 years ago, and now, major runs of galas, fujis, pink ladies and piñatas are starting to dominate this organic scene,” Pepperl said.