(Still) waiting for organic produce to 'jump the shark'

02/20/2012 01:01:00 PM
Tom Karst

National Editor Tom Karst  I was visiting with a Midwest retail buyer last week and he mentioned the continued strong growth in organic produce sales in his organization.

He said some of firm's retail divisions reported 40% growth last year in organic sales.
Consumer sensitivity to pesticide and food safety issues may have helped spur the growth, the buyer told me.

“The younger people in the marketplace are looking for an alternative for what they have been buying,” he said to me.

As I reflected on the oft-questioned staying power of organic produce, I looked back in The Packer library and searched for the words "organic" and "fad" appearing in the same story.

I saw coverage from 1993 that quoted an organic produce distributor in the Northwest, giving his opinion about where the demand was coming from:

He said his company hasn't made inroads to supplying chain stores and that doesn't bother him. He believes the people who buy organic produce don't shop at chain stores.

``We don't consider it crucial to our well-being,'' he said about pushing organic produce at conventional retail stores. ``In my opinion the chains aren't where these people do most of their business.''

TK: Well that certainly has changed, hasn't it? In 2006,Wal Mart said it would double its organic offerings to a reported 400 stock-keeping-units, and many mainstream retailers followed suit.

In November 2007, Caren Wilcox, then executive director of the Greenfield, Mass.-based Organic Trade Association, told a reporter from The Packer that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's organic certification standards had given the organic category unprecedented legitimacy.


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Ernest S.    
California  |  February, 20, 2012 at 07:38 PM

http://www.firstcoastnews.com/news/article/242733/10/FCN-Investigates-Organic-Versus-Non-Organic

john    
Delano,CA  |  February, 20, 2012 at 09:07 PM

I realize The Packer doesn't do 'Gotcha" journalism, but a nexis/lexis review of claims of growth but the OTA over the years based on 'surveys' versus a hard look at the productive base (organic certified land) and supermarket scanner data of organic sales. In grapes it's 3% of the volume from California and ZERO from Chile.

Tom Karst    
KC  |  February, 21, 2012 at 10:21 AM

Good points.. there could be more scrutiny about organic statistics vs. reality, but I think the segment does continue to grow and will continue to grow as long as the public doesn't lose faith in the "seal"

Greg Johnson    
Lenexa, Kan.  |  February, 21, 2012 at 03:09 PM

The Packer requires the OTA to provide the source of its data before we'll publish it. Sometimes, we don't get that, and we don't publish it. This isn't to pick on OTA either. We do this with most groups.

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