Organic Produce Sales Jump in March

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Wed. April 15th, 2020 - by Melissa De Leon Chavez

MONTEREY, CA - Sales from perishable departments are at all-time highs—and the organic category in the produce aisle is no exception. In fact, in a report published by the Organic Produce Network and Category Partners, the two produce pros uncovered that total organic fresh produce sales were up 22 percent for the month of March, with overall first quarter sales up eight percent in retail conditions, which is unlike anything ever experienced in the modern era of grocery retailing.

Matt Seeley, Chief Executive Officer, Organic Produce Network“Organic fresh produce sales in the first quarter of the year were strong, and the impact of COVID-19 in March pushed numbers even more,” said Matt Seeley, CEO of the Organic Produce Network. “And we continue to see organic fresh produce sales outpace the dollar and volume growth rate of conventional fresh produce.”

According to the two organizations’ 2020 Q1 Organic Produce Performance Report—which utilized Nielsen retail scan data from the past 13 weeks—March sales in the organic category were significantly above the dollar increases of January and February of this year, which stood at 1.8 percent—all because of unprecedented consumer purchasing behavior across the United States brought about by COVID-19. March 2020 organic sales were $546.8 million, with first quarter organic fresh produce sales at $1.582 billion.

Organic fruits and vegetables, in particular, outperformed conventional produce products, with dollar sales across fruit and veg increasing by 8 percent and volume up by 10 percent. Conventional produce, on the other hand, grew by 6.6 percent in dollar sales and 7.7 percent in volume. And, with organic volume climbing, Steve Lutz, Senior Vice President of Insights and Innovation at Category Partners, asserted that a challenge and opportunity for the industry lies in broadening the base of organic retail volume.

Steve Lutz, Senior Vice President of Insights and Innovation, Category Partners“What we see in the Nielsen data is that organic produce at retail is concentrated within fewer categories than conventional produce, especially in the winter months when locally produced organic products are less available,” said Lutz. “The top 10 organic categories in produce drive 59 percent of dollars and 71 percent of volume in Q1. These same categories contribute only 42 percent of total conventional sales and 52 percent of volume.”

Specific categories under the umbrella of organic, like packaged salads, apples, and bananas, generated the highest dollar growth in organic dollars (over 35 percent) in the first quarter. In terms of volume, bananas, carrots, and apples lead, generating 44 percent of total organic volume, with bananas increasing volume growth by a remarkable 19.5 percent.

“Our nation is understanding the importance of the selfless dedication the farming and grocery industry is doing day in and day out,” Seeley said, emphasizing the importance of organic produce, perhaps even more in these unchartered times. “Consumers are looking for items they trust during these uncertain times and organic fresh produce is a healthy and safe option for all consumers.”

Total organic fresh produce sales were up 22 percent for the month of March, with overall first quarter sales up eight percent in retail conditions

The 2020 Q1 report also indicated that the West and Northeast shared the greatest increase in organic dollars, with the largest opportunity for organic growth in the Midwest and South regions.

“The West continues to be the strongest region in the U.S. for organic performance, with first quarter 2020 ACV performance 34 percent above the U.S. average,” concluded Seeley.

The full 2020 Q1 Organic Performance Report is available on the Organic Produce Network website. And for more hard-hitting fresh produce news, keep checking back with AndNowUKnow.

Organic Produce Network Category Partners