( Photo by The Packer staff )

What are the best ways to spur organic sales at the retail level?

What are the most challenging aspects of growing organic produce sales?

Those questions came to my mind as I was recently thinking about the educational sessions at The Packer’s Global Organic Expo, scheduled for Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 in Hollywood, Fla.

As reported in this week’s edition of The Packer, organic sales continue to grow.

Americans spent more than $45 billion on organic food in 2017, according to the Organic Trade Association’s 2018 Organic Industry Survey released in May.

Fruits and vegetables were again the largest organic food category, recording $16.5 billion in sales in 2017 on 5.3% growth, according to the survey.

Fresh produce accounted for a whopping 90% of organic fruit and vegetable sales.

The category is still growing, but what can be done to overcome challenges and barriers to organic growth? How can marketers and retailers spur organic sales even more?

I asked those questions to the LinkedIn Fresh Produce Industry Discussion Group and they didn’t disappoint.

Regarding the challenges for retailers, the group pointed out the challenges of getting store cashiers on board with recognizing the organic product coming through.

Also mentioned among the array of challenges was that a widely variable selection of organic items can be an impediment to growing category sales. Inconsistent merchandising and poor rotation were cited as further causes for poor performance and lack of growth.

Price resistance is also a challenge, one commenter said, noting that it is still hard for consumers to spend the extra coin to buy organic, thus leaving a market opening for discounters like Aldi.

Whether meeting the trends of local or organic, it is still about “informing the consumer and making it affordable for an entire family.”

In terms of best ways to spur organic sales — the glass half full perspective — there were some great responses from the LinkedIn group. Here are some that I found compelling:

  • Commit to a strategy of promoting the top 10 organic fruits and veggies;
  • Packaging is important for messaging and the proper ring at the register. “Certainly recyclable — re-usable even better — and it needs to scream ORGANIC,” one comment said;
  • Find 10-15 everyday organic items that have the lowest premium relative to their conventional counterparts and put them right beside the conventional versions; and
  • Ensure that every time the conventional product is advertised, offer the organic product alongside it in the ad. 

Those were just some of the insights of the group. As The Packer looks ahead to the GOPEX show and education sessions, I believe all parts of the supply chain will want to attend the show for powerful insights on growing organic sales and other critical topics. 

Stay tuned on news about the event’s program and make plans to attend.

Tom Karst is The Packer’s editor. E-mail him at tkarst@farmjournal.com.