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Organic Produce Dollar Growth Up in 2022, Volume Down

OPN report shows price gap between organic and conventional is the largest it has been in past 4 years
Marian Zboraj, Progressive Grocer
Wegmans Organic
According to OPN data, U.S. organic produce sales topped $9.4 billion in 2022.

Organic fresh produce sales grew by 3% in 2022, while volume declined by 3.7%, as total sales topped $9.4 billion for the year, according to the "2022 Organic Produce Performance Report" released by Organic Produce Network (OPN) and Category Partners.

The organic fresh berry category (which includes strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries) was the top organic produce category, holding more than 16% of organic fresh produce dollars in 2022.

[Read more: "USDA Strengthens Rules Related to Organic Products"]

Total fresh produce sales gained 7.3% in dollars for the year but experienced a 1.3% decline in volume. Organic fresh produce made up 12% of all fresh produce sales and accounted for 7% of all fresh produce volume.

“In an inflationary time like this, we expect to see the growth of sales dollars and volume declines repeated for the majority of organic and conventional fresh produce items,” said Tom Barnes, president of Idaho Falls, Idaho-based Category Partners. “The average conventional price per pound grew by 9.2% compared to 2021 while organic produce price per pound rose by 7%. With rising prices, we may see more selective organic shopping from consumers as they substitute higher-priced organic items for conventional ones.”

OPN Categories by Dollar
Overall fresh berry sales topped 1.6 billion for the year, with organic packaged salads a close second at $1.55 billion.

Organic apples were the largest example of substitution as their price per pound increased by more than double the amount of conventional, resulting in a 10.3% volume decline.

For 2022, 13 of the top 20 organic produce categories (by total sales) posted increases in dollars, with organic onions generating the largest increase (15.4%), followed by cucumbers, potatoes and avocados. On the other hand, green beans posted the largest drop in dollars at 5%, and lettuce and bell peppers also posted noticeable declines in dollars for the year.

Additionally, 14 of the top 20 organic produce sales categories posted declines in volume, with only 10 of those categories showing positive dollar growth.

OPN Categories by Volume
Organic bananas continued to be the biggest volume mover despite a 1.2% volume decline in 2022 and showed a modest 3.9% increase in sales from the previous year.

Of note, potatoes and cabbage, typically regarded as inflation busters, showed a 10% increase in dollar sales and a nominal 1% growth in volume. Organic grapes had a stellar year, with a 6.9% increase in volume and an 8.3% increase in sales.

Overall, organic fresh produce prices remained substantially higher than conventional, with 2022 showing the price gap between the two the largest it has been in the past four years at $1.55 per pound.

So how can retailers better market their organic produce at inflationary time period when shoppers continue to struggle with high food prices?

OPN Regional Performance
Organic performance in 2022 was consistent among all regions of the nation — dollars grew and volume declined — with the Northeast experiencing the lowest dollar growth and highest volume decline.

Barnes recommends reaching those consumers with the health and value benefits associated with organics. Then there is Sprouts Farmers Market, which is making organic produce more accessible through a new reduced price program. The specialty retailer launched its Rescued Organics program in all 130 California stores this month. The program helps reduces food waste and supports local farmers by bringing to market imperfect organic produce that would typically be discarded due to imperfections that do not affect quality. The Rescued Organics program launched with 12 different varieties of local produce such as: potatoes, onions, grapefruit, lemons, oranges, pears, carrots, kiwi and bell peppers.

Promoting organics during the holidays is key as well. However, while the Valentine’s Day shopping period has traditionally been a great time for retailers to promote organic strawberries, OPN reports this year very light supplies of both organic and conventional berries are expected through most of February because of the extensive rains in California and the cold weather in both Florida and Mexico. Even though California rains have delayed the start of the season, OPN indicates a possible bunching of supply in late spring/early summer.

The “2022 Organic Produce Performance Report” utilized Nielsen retail scan data covering total food sales and outlets in the United States from January through December 2022. A complete version of this report, including information on the top 20 organic fresh produce categories, will be made available on the OPN website in mid-February.

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