Hunger for organic continues to grow

WASHINGTON — A new survey from the Organic Trade Association reveals that Americans are hungry for more organic products, with sales in the United States leaping to $35.1 billion in 2013, which represents a 11.5% increase from the previous year. And the desire for organic products is not expected to let up any time soon, the association said.

"The U.S. organic market is experiencing strong expansion, with organic food and farming continuing to gain in popularity. Consumers are making the correlation between what we eat and our health, and that knowledge is spurring heightened consumer interest in organic products," said Laura Batcha, executive director and CEO of OTA.

Organic food was once a niche industry in the vast food sector, but purchases broke through the $30 million mark in 2012 and now make up more than 4% of the $760 billion annual food sales in the United States. Organic fruits and vegetables lead the category with $11.6 billion in sales. The organic condiments category showed the strongest growth at 17% with sales of $830 million.

Other growth areas included:

  • Organic bread and grain sales, up 12% to $3.8 billion;
  • Organic meat, poultry and fish sales, up 11% to $675 million; and
  • Organic packaged and prepared food sector, up 10% to $4.8 billion.

The industry does face some roadblocks, though. Farmland across the country isn't being converted quickly enough to meet growing demand for organic products. Supplies of organic feed and grain also have been costly, which could restrict growth in the organic dairy and meat sectors. There's also a bit of confusion on the consumer side as to what the term "organic" actually means.

"The entire organic industry needs to rally around helping consumers better understand and appreciate all the values that certified organic brings to the table," Batcha said. "Consumer education is critical to grow the organic industry."

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