Total organic fresh produce sales for the third quarter of 2021 saw a continuation of year-over-year growth, increasing by 3 percent from the same period last year and nearing $2.3 billion for the quarter, according to the Q3 2021 Organic Produce Performance Report released exclusively by Organic Produce Network and Category Partners.
As foodservice sectors continued to reopen, the third quarter of 2021 generated growth in organic fresh produce sales at retail—even despite a comp period of Q3 2020 that was highlighted by pandemic-driven high-volume consumer purchasing behavior. Organic dollar sales increased by 3.4 percent from Q3 of last year, totaling $2.29 billion for the quarter, with organic volume growing by 1.6 percent. By contrast, conventionally grown fresh produce saw sales increase by 1.3 percent and volume decline by 2.3 percent compared to Q3 last year.
With an 11-percent increase in dollar growth over the same period last year, the organic berry category (which includes strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries) reigned as the number one organic segment by dollar sales in Q3 2021, topping $407 million for the quarter. The berry category also saw volume growth for the quarter, up 7.3 percent.
Apples showed the largest sales dollar increase for Q3 2021, up 12.7 percent from the same period last year. Lettuce (up 6.3 percent), citrus (up 5.7 percent), and bananas (up 3.8 percent) delivered volume gains, while packaged salad volume was down (-0.8 percent) for the quarter. Three categories—berries, apples, and packaged salads—accounted for 85 percent of all organic fresh produce year-over-year dollar growth in Q3 2021.
“The good news is Q3 2021 continued to generate year-over-year growth in organic produce sales despite the Q3 2020 comp period driven by pandemic buying behavior,” said Steve Lutz, senior vice president of insights and innovation at Category Partners. “It is encouraging to note that even though consumer purchases of conventional produce were lower [by volume] than Q3 of last year, organic produce continues to generate growth—an indication that the longer-term trend of consumers moving toward organic produce continues to grow as organic’s share of the market rises.”
The top 10 organic produce categories showed mixed results in sales growth for the third quarter of 2021, with berries, apples, packaged salads, lettuce, bananas, lettuce, and carrots registering sales dollar gains, while herbs, tomatoes, citrus, and potatoes showed modest declines. Berries were the star performer in volume growth, joining bananas, apples, onions, citrus, and lettuce in gains for the quarter.
Year-over-year organic produce sales growth for Q3 was weakest in the West at 1.1 percent, while the weakest year-over-year volume change for the same period was found in the Northeast (-1.5 percent). Overall organic performance was strongest in the South, where dollar sales jumped by 4.7 percent, and volume increased by 3.4 percent in Q3 2021 compared to the same period the previous year.
The Q3 2021 Organic Produce Performance Report utilized Nielsen retail scan data covering total food sales and outlets in the US over the months of July, August, and September. The full Q3 2021 Organic Produce Performance Report is available here.