U.S. organic sales hit a record $52.5 billion in 2018, up 6.3% from the previous year, and The Packer’s Fresh Trends 2019 consumer survey indicates the growth of organic produce in particular is poised to continue.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they would purchase organic produce if price were no object. Typically, however, price is a key consideration for consumers contemplating an organic purchase.

Sixty percent of shoppers who bought organic in the last 12 months said they weigh any extra cost versus the perceived advantage to their health. How much more consumers are willing to pay varies.

Roughly one-third of shoppers said they would pay less than 10% more for organic, and another 31% of shoppers said they would pay 10-24% more. Those numbers were fairly consistent between the different income brackets, from $25,000 or less at the low end to $100,000 or more at the high end.

Consumers across all age groups expressed a willingness to pay 10-24% more for organics, from shoppers 18-39 (32%) to 40-49 (40%) to shoppers 50-58 (27%) to shoppers 59-plus (26%).

Beyond that, younger consumers were most willing to pay more organic, with 19% saying they’d pay 25-49% more.

The top reasons given for purchasing organic produce were nutrient content/personal health (48%), environmental/social responsibility (34%), and food safety/avoiding chemicals (60%).

Organic category growth overall

Organic food sales last year were $47.9 billion, an increase of 5.9% from 2017, according to the Organic Trade Association. More than one-third of organic food sales come from fruits and vegetables. Produce sales — including all forms, not just fresh — were $17.4 billion in 2018, up 5.6%.

“Organic is now considered mainstream, but the attitudes surrounding organic are anything but status quo,” OTA executive director and CEO Laura Batcha said in a news release. “In 2018, there was a notable shift in the mindset of those working in organic toward collaboration and activism to move the needle on the role organic can play in sustainability and tackling environmental initiatives.

“Activism is a natural reaction from an industry that is really close to the consumer,” Batcha said. “When we are in an environment where government is not moving fast enough, the industry is choosing to move to meet the consumer rather than get stalled.”

Fresh perspective

The United Fresh Produce Association, in its FreshFacts on Retail report about 2018, provided some context on the growth of organic fresh produce in particular.

Organic sales of fresh produce in 2018 were $5.6 billion, up 8.7%. Organic fresh vegetable sales were up 7.1%, organic fresh fruit sales were up 10.7%, and organic fresh herbs/spices sales were up 7.9%.


Ways to make it easier for occasional organic shoppers to buy more

Produce Trends Focus — Kevin Byers with PCC Community Markets


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