Organic food sales totaled nearly $30 billion in 2012, up from about $11 billion in 2004, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Organizations such as Organic Trade Association have pointed to the Northeast as a longtime hotbed for organic sales.
Connecticut fits in with the trend, according to produce wholesalers and retailers in the state.
“We’re carrying consistent lines of organic products for our restaurant and foodservice and retail business,” said Ken Yandow, president of Hartford, Conn.-based FreshPoint Connecticut, a regional distributor and subsidiary of Houston-based broadliner Sysco Corp.
He said demand for organics is consistent and increasing.
The trends hold for retail sales, as well, said Lindsay Hawley, spokeswoman for Stop & Shop New England, a Quincy, Mass.-based grocery store chain.
“Organics are still growing at a strong rate, and organic customers seem to be reading the latest case studies and are buying the items which have the greatest perceived benefit,” Hawley said.
The growth trend in organics has drawn the interest of CT Fresh Inc., a Stamford, Conn.-based distributor that had not handled the category much in the past but plans to do so in the future, said Paul Ryan, president.
“It is growing, and next year, we plan to work with a lot of organic farmers,” Ryan said.
CT Fresh traditionally has dealt with organics sporadically, he said.
“When something comes across, off and on, I’ll work with organic, and I do organic juice oranges out of Florida,” he said.
Some retailers turn to organics as their market niche, and CT Fresh’s juice business has been part of that in the past, he said.
It’s time to expand the company’s organic involvement, Ryan said.
“We’re bringing a lot of organic heirloom tomatoes and now I have some guys doing some organic heirloom tomatoes out here for me for next year,” he said.
But the category isn’t for everybody, some produce suppliers say.
“It’s touch-and-go, spotty still,” said Al Parziale, president of Tina Rose Produce LLC, a Hartford-based wholesale distributor.
Parziale said he gets requests for organic, but the price premium that the products generally command sometimes is an obstacle.
“It’s probably split down the middle, as far as restaurants and retailers requesting it,” he said.
Elisabeth Granoff, co-owner of New Haven, Conn.-based G&A Wholesale Fruit & Produce, said her company hasn’t had many demands for organic produce.