The U.S. organic industry showed healthy growth last year, outpacing the sales increase of comparable conventionally produced food and nonfood items, according to a new industry survey. Driven by consumer choice, the sector surpassed the $30 billion mark for the first time.
The organic industry grew by 9.5 percent overall in 2011 to reach $31.5 billion in sales, according to findings from an Organic Trade Association survey. Of this, the organic food and beverage sector was valued at $29.22 billion, while the organic nonfood sector reached $2.2 billion.
Organic food sales experienced 9.4 percent growth in 2011, the survey found. The easing of the recession, consumer price inflation due to input price increases, and consumers' increasing desire for convenience products were all factors that elevated growth for the year, the OTA said.
The organic food sector grew by $2.5 billion during 2011, with the fruit and vegetable category contributing close to 50 percent of those new dollars. The fastest-growing sector was the meat, fish and poultry category, posting 13 percent growth over 2010 sales, but still remaining the smallest of the eight organic food categories.
Organic food sales now represent 4.2 percent of all U.S. food sales, up from 4 percent in 2010.
Meanwhile, organic nonfood sales experienced strong 11 percent growth, while total comparable non-organic items grew only 5 percent. The OTA predicts that organic food and nonfood sales will continue to sustain growth of 9 percent or higher.
"Consumers are increasingly engaged and discerning when they shop, making decisions based on their values and awareness about health and environmental concerns," said Christine Bushway, OTA's executive director and CEO. "For them, it matters whether foods are genetically engineered, or produced using practices that are good for their families. Price is still an issue, but with the wide availability of private label products and many venues for organic products, they have many choices for where to shop and a variety of products from which to choose."