COVID-19 driving new surge in organic sales

Organic products signage grocery aisle at supermarket Photo: iStock/Getty Images

Importance of organic continues to rise, as sales hit $55.1 billion in 2019, says Organic Trade Association

By Glacier FarmMedia staff

Importance of organic continues to rise, as sales hit $55.1 billion in 2019, says Organic Trade Association

The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic this year — and its enormous impact on consumers’ everyday lives – has had dramatic spinoffs for the organic sector in 2020, the U.S.-based Organic Trade Association (OTA) says in a release.

Based on industry and consumer surveys, the OTA is reporting increased demand across several categories.

Organic produce sales, after jumping by more than 50 per cent in the early days of kitchen stocking, were up more than 20 per cent in the spring of 2020. Other categories experiencing softer growth have been seeing big boosts in demand: the run on groceries meant organic milk was in high demand, for example, and sales of organic eggs skyrocketed. Packaged and frozen organic foods saw double-digit growth as consumers upped at-home meal preparation.

The OTA says the surge in demand adds to the sector’s growing popularity among consumers.

Consumers are eating more organic food and using more organic products than ever before, according to the 2020 Organic Industry Survey released June 9 by the Organic Trade Association. The U.S. organic sector posted a banner year in 2019, with organic sales in the food and non-food markets totaling a record $55.1 billion, up a solid 5 percent from the previous year.

The pandemic has only increased our desire for clean, healthy food. – Laura Batcha

Both the food and non-food markets shattered major benchmarks. Organic food sales hit $50.1 billion, up 4.6 per cent. Organic non-food sales totalled just over $5 billion, up a strong 9.2 per cent. Both sectors easily outpaced the general market growth rate of around two per cent for total food sales and of just three per cent for total non-food sales.

“Our 2020 survey looks at organic sales in 2019 before the coronavirus outbreak, and it shows that consumers were increasingly seeking out the organic label to feed their families the healthiest food possible. The pandemic has only increased our desire for clean, healthy food,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director of the Organic Trade Association. “Our normal lives have been brought to a screeching halt by the coronavirus. The commitment to the organic label has always resided at the intersection of health and safety, and we expect that commitment to strengthen as we all get through these unsettled times.”

In the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Organic Trade Association undertook a multi-pronged effort to look not only at shifting patterns in organic shopping since the crisis began, but to gather intelligence on the overall retail landscape for organic, and on the organic supply chain: where the supply chain is holding together and where it is being challenged. The association worked with Mercaris Data Service and Category Partners strategic insights company to put together the latest insights and outlooks for the organic sector.

The association also conducted an online flash poll of 3,188 “likely organic” shoppers in late April and early May. More than 90 per cent of respondents indicated that in their current food shopping, organic is more important than ever.