Sales of organic fresh produce are on the rise, according to a new report released by Organic Produce Network and Category Partners. The findings indicate that total organic fresh produce sales and volume increased in Q2 2021 compared to the same period in 2020, while conventionally grown produce declined.
The report — which used Nielsen retail scan data for food sales in the U.S. over April, May, and June — found that sales of organic fresh produce were up 4.1%, but sales of conventional produce dropped 3.3%. Volume of organic produce changed little (+0.2%) in Q2 compared to last year. Conventional produce volume, however, declined by 8.6%.
Despite the positive trajectory, organic sales and volume growth for the quarter came in below historical trends — this is due to the panic buying behavior that shaped the second quarter of 2020.
Results varied for the top 10 organic produce categories during the second quarter of 2021. Citrus, apples, lettuce, bananas, and berries showed strong year-over-year sales growth, while sales of tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, salads, and herbs decreased slightly. Surprisingly, the berry category overtook packaged salads for the first time as the top organic category in dollar sales, showing an increase of 19%.
Another unusual trend in the second quarter was that the Western part of the U.S., a region that usually leads the country in organic produce sales, saw a decline of 0.2%. Instead, the strongest sales gains occurred in the Northeast, with an increase of 7.7%.
Consumer food purchases seem to be trending toward traditional shopping behaviors, replacing habits formed during the COVID-19 pandemic. “As we come out of the pandemic, and foodservice channels have reopened, the widespread pantry loading that occurred during the second quarter of last year has subsided,” said Matt Seely, CEO of Organic Produce Network. “The result is that many product categories showed little, if any, growth in Q2 2021 when compared to last year. The fact remains, organic fresh produce continued to generate year-over-year growth in sales and volume, while conventional produce declined against the same period last year.”