Organic Consumers Association

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Organic Produce Sales Show No Sign of Slowing

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The surge in the organic segment isn't slowing.

U.S. organic food sales in 2013 hit $32.3 billion, according to the Organic Trade Association, Brattleboro, Vt. Organic food now accounts for 4% of the $760 billion annual food sales in the U.S.

As usual, the fruit and vegetable category led the sector with $11.6 billion in sales in 2013, up 15% from the previous year.

More than 10% of the fruits and vegetables sold in the U.S. now are organic, said  Barbara Haumann, OTA senior writer and editor.

U.S. organic produce sales in 2014 and 2015 are expected to grow about 15% each year, surpassing the 11% to 11.5% overall growth projected for U.S. organic food sales, she said.

"We've been seeing really strong demand for the last 12 months or so," said Addie Pobst, organic integrity and logistics coordinator for Viva Tierra Organic Inc., Sedro-Woolley, Wash. "Very consistent."

There was great movement through 2013 with domestic apples, and the 2014 import crop has been cruising along, she said.

Pobst said she expects growth to continue for at least a few more years.

Grower shippers have spotted a number of trends in the organic category at the major supermarket chains.

More retailers are starting to merchandise larger organic apples in bulk displays, and they're offering more varieties - two to four rather than one or two, said Roger Pepperl, marketing director for Stemilt Growers Inc., Wenatchee, Wash.

Until now, supermarket chains often limited their selection of organic apples to the smaller sizes, which they sold in 3-pound bags because they didn't know how to sell larger organic apples in bulk, he said. About 70% of conventional apples are sold in bulk.

He said he also sees more organic apple promotions than he did 10 years ago.

Some retailers offer only organic versions of some specialty items, like bunch beets, green onions, radishes, chards and kales, said Tom Russell, president of Pacific International Marketing, Salinas, Calif.

"Carrying both (conventional and organic) eats up shelf space, which is always at a premium," he said.     

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