Fruits and vegetables continue to show organic gainsFruits and vegetables continue to post double-digit gains in the organic food and products sector.

New numbers from the Brattleboro, Vt.-based Organic Trade Association show that 2013 organic sales of fruits and vegetables totaled more than $11.6 billion, up 15% from 2012.

Those numbers represent both fresh — the dominant market segment — and processed fruits and vegetables, said Maggie McNeil, director of media relations for the for the association.

According to the association’s Organic Industry Survey, 10% of all fruits and vegetables sold in the U.S. are organic.

However retail scan data used by The Packer show organic’s share in retail is 6%.

The OTA survey shows total sales of organic products in the U.S. were $35.1 billion in 2013, up 11.5% from 2012. Organic food, with $32.3 billion in 2013 sales, accounted for 92% of all organic sales, according to the survey.

“The U.S. organic market is experiencing strong expansion, with organic food and farming continuing to gain in popularity,” Laura Batcha, executive director and CEO of the association, said in the release. “Consumers are making the correlation between what we eat and our health, and that knowledge is spurring heightened consumer interest in organic products.”

The survey said consumer purchases of organic food account for more than 4% of the $760 billion annual food sales in the U.S. in 2013, up from a 1.8% share in 2003. The 10% average sales growth of organic food since 2010 far exceeds the 3% annual growth in sales of total food sales during the same period, according to the survey.

 Varying estimates

The survey’s 2013 estimate for total organic fruit and vegetable sales of $11.6 billion is much higher than the estimate for organic fresh produce sales in 2013 compiled through The Packer’s Produce Market Guide, which uses retail scan data from FreshLook Marketing.

The Packer’s Guide, which will come out in June, shows organic fresh produce sales of $3.46 billion in 2013, up 21.5% from $2.85 billion in 2012, and an increase in pounds sold from 996 million in 2012 to 1.21 billion in 2013, an increase of 21.6%.

Compared with the OTA’s estimate that organic fruits and vegetables in all forms account for 10% of total fruit and vegetable sales, FreshLook research estimates that organic fresh produce accounted for 6% of total retail sales in 2013, up from 5.3% in 2012.

Batcha said in the release that consumer education about the meaning of organic must increase, with more products labeled “natural” and the debate about genetically-modified foods.

“The entire organic industry needs to rally around helping consumers better understand and appreciate all the values that certified organic brings to the table,” she said in the release. “Consumer education is critical to grow the organic industry.”


U.S. organic food sales growth

2003  19.6%              

2004 15.6%               

2005 19.2%               

2006 17.9%

2007 16.4%

2008 18.6%

2009 4.3%

2010 7.2%

2011 9.2%

2012 10.2%

2013 11.4% 

Source: Organic Trade Association