June 5, 2009
The Organic Trade Association reported on May 4, 2009, that sales of organic products, both food and non-food, topped $24.6 billion in 2008, representing a 17.1 percent increase over 2007 figures. Amid economic turmoil both domestically and abroad, where most other product categories have been witnessing declining growth or even declining sales overall, the organic segment of the market in the U.S. has seen impressive gains and continues to procure popularity. This can be seen in the latest reports that show organic food sales now accounting for roughly 3.5 percent of overall food sales in the U.S.
While organic food products experienced a noteworthy 15.8 percent upswing in 2008 sales, attaining $22.9 billion, organic non-food products achieved an impressive 39.4 percent surge in sales, reaching $1.648 billion. This all occurred despite dire predictions by marketing research experts that organic sales would tumble due to massive economic contraction.
Though the rate of growth has been steadily declining over the past several years, waning from a 20.9 percent growth rate in 2006 to its most recent 14.6 percent industry growth rate last year, several significant organic milestones have been achieved including organic fruits and vegetables now accounting for almost 10 percent of overall produce sales. Organic food sales also grew more than three times the rate of conventional food sales which saw a mere 4.9 percent growth rate.
In the primary categories by segment, fruit and vegetable sales were up 6 percent from 2007, dairy up 13 percent, non-dairy beverages up a whopping 32 percent, breads and grains up 35 percent, and meat and fish up 12 percent. Other categories include packaged-prepared foods up 21 percent, snack foods up 11 percent, and sauces and condiments up 23 percent.
The report illustrates that, despite current economic woes, many people continue to navigate the tortuous world of food offerings with health in mind, choosing organic products in order to reduce their exposure to toxic chemicals, pesticides, fungicides, and genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). Studies have shown that, despite typically higher prices, organic consumers consider quality as well as price when perceiving value, leading them to choose organic over conventional even during financial crunch times. But which organic products provide the most benefits over their conventional counterparts?