While organic food sales continued to grow in 2009, the rate was much slower than in previous years, according to the Organic Trade Association’s 2010 organic industry survey, released this Spring.
The report, produced by Nutrition Business Journal, shows that while organic food sales grew 5.1 percent to $25 billion, the increase was not as significant as 2008’s 16--percent growth. On the whole, total U.S. food sales grew only by 1.9 percent, which Christine Bushway, executive director for the OTA, said is indicative of the consumers' commitment to organic.
“Consumers understand the benefits that organic products offer and will make other cuts before they give up products they value,” she said in a release.
Organic fruits and vegetables, the only category to report higher numbers from 2008, experienced the most growth overall with 38 percent of the total organic market. Organic dairy, on the other hand, weathered a difficult year due to large price gaps between conventional and organic milk prices and experienced a 1-percent drop in 2009 compared to 13-percent growth in 2008. Similarly, consumers intent on saving money held off on organic meat purchases resulting in only 2 percent growth for the category compared to 12 percent in 2008 and 42 percent from 1997 to 2008.
Analysts say they are optimistic for higher numbers in 2010.
“Our research was concluding about the time of Natural Products Expo West in March,” said Barbara Haumann, press secretary for the OTA. “The feeling there was very upbeat and companies were already thinking positively for the future. While this report doesn’t project out, all things point to increased growth this year.”
On the retail end, mass market grocery, club stores still accounted for more than half (54 percent) of organic sales. Natural retailers accounted for 38 percent, “conceding some sales to mass market because many consumers assume—although not necessarily correctly—that organic products are cheaper in mass market,” the report stated. In 2006, natural grocery chains and regional natural health food stores accounted for 47-percent of all sales. The report attributes the decline to a “wider distribution of organic products in various channels and the growth of private label in retail channels.”
Access to the entire 70-page report is available through the OTA.