Amid the uncertainty and change of the past year, organic food is prospering.
U.S. organic sales jumped by a record 12.4 per cent to US$61.9 billion in 2020, according to the 2021 Organic Industry Survey released by the Organic Trade Association (OTA).
That marks the first time that total sales of organic food and non-food products have surpassed the US$60 billion mark, and reflected a growth rate more than twice the 2019 pace of 5 per cent.
In particular, organic food sales soared by nearly 13 per cent to over US$56 billion.
The OTA notes that demand spiked in nearly every organic food aisle last year, something it attributes to the growing reputation of organic food as being good for consumers and for the planet.
In total in 2020, almost 6 per cent of food sold in the U.S. was certified organic.
Part of the spike can possibly be attributed to the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic saw significant consumer food spending shift from restaurants and takeout to groceries and produce. With commuting and in-person education on pause for much of the year, many people ate far more meals at home than they had before the pandemic.
“The pandemic caused abrupt changes in all of our lives,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association. “We’ve been eating at home with our families, and often cooking three meals a day. Good, healthy food has never been more important, and consumers have increasingly sought out the Organic label. Organic purchases have skyrocketed as shoppers choose high-quality organic to feed and nourish their families.”
Fresh organic produce sales rose by nearly 11 per cent in 2020 to US$18.2 million. Frozen fruit and vegetable sales alone spiked by more than 28 per cent. Including frozen, canned, and dried products, total sales of organic fruit and vegetables in 2020 were US$20.4 billion, and more than 15 per cent of the fruits and vegetables sold in the U.S. now are organic.
Sales of organic flours and baked goods grew by 30 per cent as home baking gained traction. Sales of sauces and spices grew the condiments category by 31 per cent as organic spice sales jumped by 51 per cent, more than triple the growth rate of 15 per cent in 2019.
Meat, poultry, and fish, the smallest of the organic categories, had the second-highest growth rate of nearly 25 per cent.
“The only thing that constrained growth in the organic food sector was supply,” said Angela Jagiello, Director of Education & Insights for the Organic Trade Association. “Across all the organic categories, growth was limited by supply, causing producers, distributors, retailers and brands to wonder where numbers would have peaked if supply could have been met!”
While this level of growth in organic food sales is not expected to continue at 2020’s fast rate, it should stay on a strong growth path in 2021, suggests the OTA. It’s anticipated that the wider grocery industry will get a lasting lift from the pandemic for the foreseeable future as many consumers continue to cook more at home.
“We’ve seen a great many changes during the pandemic, and some of them are here to stay,” said Batcha. “What’s come out of COVID is a renewed awareness of the importance of maintaining our health, and the important role of nutritious food. For more and more consumers, that means organic. We’ll be eating in restaurants again, but many of us will also be eating and cooking more at home. We’ll see more organic everywhere – in the stores and on our plates.”