The organic category is here to stay — and it’s growing, according to companies with organic offerings.
“We’ve seen significant growth, roughly about a 30% increase in organic volume over last year,” said Jim Roberts, vice president of sales for Naples, Fla.-based Naturipe Farms LLC.
“It’s really become a much larger percentage of our overall sales,” Roberts said.
Other companies also have noticed the uptick in sales, and they believe it’s unlikely those trends will revert.
“I don’t think we’ll ever turn back the clock,” said Matt Seeley, vice president of marketing at The Nunes Co., Salinas, Calif.
“I think it will be a steady rise with periods of substantial growth and then plateaus,” he said.
Hector Crisantes, West Coast sales manager for Sunny Valley Organics Inc., Nogales, Ariz., said despite the economy he’s seen double-digit growth for certain categories, namely heirloom tomatoes and bell peppers.
“We’ve seen (up to) 24% growth from last season to this season for those,” he said.
Despite the growth companies have seen so far, they expect even more as the economy continues to improve.
“There has always been a core group buying organics week in and week out,” Roberts said. “It’s the next group that’s growing, the ones that now have a bit more disposable income.”
The improvement of the economy should help with organic sales, since they still come at a premium cost.
“I think everyone would like to see organics increase, but it’s based on the price differential,” said Ian Zimmerman, operations manager for Maurice A. Auerbach Inc., South Hackensack, N.J.
“Our organic shallots are almost double the cost of our conventional, and that is not something a consumer will easily move to in this economy,” Zimmerman said.
Roberts also expects this second set of organic buyers to increase consumption as organic availability increases.
“As we see better production and yields, it puts a better value on it for them, so the growth is really a combination of increased demand and supply,” he said.
Figuring the numbers
Those higher yields and increased production are sometimes difficult to accurately measure.
For example, Luis Acuna, president of CF Fresh Inc., Sedro-Woolley, Wash., said weather plays an important role in determining production, despite increased plantings or other expansions.