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Sustainable Food News: Berries Drive 19% Jump in Organic Fresh Fruit Retail Sales

Despite flat sales, packaged salad sales lead organic fresh produce category, which was up 10% in Q1

by Sustainable Food News

May 18, 2017

U.S. retail sales of organic berries - strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc. - soared more than 25 percent in March to $46.8 million, while organic banana sales jumped 23 percent to $17.7 million, compared to the same month last year.

That's according to an analysis of organic fresh produce sold at retail nationwide in March by the Organic Produce Network, LLC (OPN), an online and live content programming group for the organic fresh produce industry, and global information firm Nielsen.

Total sales of organic fresh vegetables were $189 million in March, a 4 percent increase, while total sales of organic fresh fruit came in at $119 million, an 19 percent increase, led by sales of berries.

While sales of packaged salads in March were flat with last year, it was, by far, the leading organic fresh produce category in terms of sales, generating $71.5 million.

"One area of potential opportunity is the underdeveloped 'value-added' organic fresh produce category, as organic value-add items stood at just five percent of all value-add sales in March," OPN said. "The marketing of convenience and value-added organic items toward affluent consumers provides a potential opportunity; however, organizations need to be cautious the additional value may drive the price too high for some customers."

Retail sales of value-added organic vegetables in March were $14.2 million, up 7.2 percent. Carrots, French/green beans and cooking greens were the top three selling items in the category.

Retail sales of value-added organic fruit in March were $1.2 million, up 21.8 percent. Apples was the leading value-added organic fruit item, comprising more than 80 percent of the category's March sales.

Meanwhile, OPN said that for the first quarter of 2017, organic fresh produce sales accounted for more than 10 percent of all produce dollars.

Organic produce retained its longstanding spot as the largest organic food category in 2015 when sales hit $14.4 billion, up 10.6 percent, with nearly 13 percent of all produce sold in the United States certified organic, according to last year's organic industry sales report from the Organic Trade Association (OTA), which will soon publish 2016 industry sales figures.

"Produce has always been and continues to be a gateway to organic," OTA said. "It's easy for shoppers to make the connection between agricultural practices used in the field and the fresh fruit or vegetables they bite into."

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