Organic fresh produce grew sales by 5.5 percent in 2021, topping $9 billion for the first time, and outpacing conventionally grown produce in year-over-year gains in both sales and volume, according to the 2021 Organic Produce Performance Report released by the Organic Produce Network and Category Partners.
Despite the return of food service in 2021, organic produce sales and volume at retail outlets still showed year-over-year growth in all four quarters of last year. Total organic fresh produce sales for 2021 were $9.2 billion, an increase of $477 million compared to 2020.
The organic fresh berry category (including strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries) was the star performer with a 14 percent gain in sales and a 10 percent rise in volume.
Packaged salads, berries and apples accounted for two-thirds of all organic fresh dollar growth in 2021 compared to 2020. Despite organic berries’ year-over-year dollar increase, packaged salads were the number one organic fresh produce category by total sales, topping $1.5 billion.
In 2021, packaged salads continued to have one of the highest organic price premiums—$3.11/lb. over conventional. Organic berries also exhibited significant price premiums over conventional: blackberries ($3.01/lb.), blueberries ($2.18/lb.), and raspberries ($2.52/lb.). Organic bananas, on the other hand, continued to have one of the smallest price premiums at $0.15/lb.
“While a gap remains in the average retail price per pound between organic and conventional, the price increases in both categories last year were remarkably similar,” said Steve Lutz, senior vice-president of Insights and Innovation at Category Partners.
In 2021, overall organic produce volume increased by 2 percent year over year, a significantly better figure than the –3.3 percent volume loss observed in conventional produce. Organic bananas continued to be the biggest volume mover, with 547 million pounds sold in 2021, and they showed a modest 3.4 percent increase from the previous year.
“It is very apparent that consumer supermarket food purchases the past year reflected more traditional buying trends as compared to the COVID-inspired purchasing changes we saw in 2020,” said Matt Seeley, CEO of Organic Produce Network.
Berries, watermelons, and citrus drove total organic volume increases in 2021. Several powerhouse organic categories had year-over-year volume declines, including packaged salads, potatoes, and carrots. Organic carrots saw a volume decrease of –4.4 percent, and they were the only top 10 organic produce sales category to experience a sales decline (–1.3 percent) from 2020.
The 2021 Organic Produce Performance Report utilized Nielsen retail scan data covering total food sales and outlets in the U.S. from January through December 2021.
A complete version of this report will be made available on the Organic Produce Network website in mid-February.