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Organic Produce More Popular Than Ever: Report


American consumers are buying more organic fruits and vegetables than ever before, with more than half of all U.S. households now purchasing organic produce. The sale of organic bananas alone, a$165 million market, skyrocketed by more than 30 percent in 2015, while organic value-added veggies such as chopped kale, peeled carrots and ready-to-cook squash increased an impressive 54 percent in 2015 to almost $150 million.
"The organic produce market is growing and strong, and it is driving trends in produce innovation across the board," noted Laura Batcha, executive director and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Organic Trade Association (OTA), at the inaugural Organic Produce Summit, held July 13-14 in Monterey, Calif., during her State of the Organic Produce presentation. The sold-out summit drew more than 500 attendees from all facets the organic produce industry, and included a trade show with more than 70 exhibits from leading organic fresh fruit and vegetable producers.
During her presentation, Batcha revealed the findings of a report on the produce-buying habits of Americans compiled for OTA by Schaumburg, Ill.-based Nielsen.
According to the OTA 2016 Organic Industry Survey, which was released in May, fresh organic produce sales in the United States reached $13 billion in 2015, with total sales of organic fruits and vegetables, including fresh, frozen and canned, pegged at $14.4 billion. The market encompasses $5.7 billion worth of organic produce sold in supermarkets, big-box stores and warehouse clubs; $4.7 billion sold by specialty and natural retailers; and $2.7 billion in direct sales, including farmers' markets, community-supported agriculture (CSA) projects and online.
“The more we know about the market and what consumers want, the better the organic produce grower, distributor and retailer can respond to meet the needs of today's food buyer,” said Batcha. “Understanding the organic produce consumer will drive the future growth of the sector.”

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Since 2011, U.S. produce sales have risen by more than 25 percent, driven by convenience, higher awareness of produce’s health benefits, and increased interest in local food sources largely. Organic fruit sales have grown by 123 percent during that time, while organic vegetable sales have increased 92 percent. Alongside bananas, blackberries, salad greens and baby carrots, and Pink Lady apples have all done well in the organic sector, with sales up 61 percent, 11 percent each, and 96 percent, respectively.

What’s more, the U.S. organic industry saw its largest dollar gain ever in 2015, adding $4.2 billion in sales. Total organic food sales in the United States reached $39.7 billion, an 11 percent increase from the previous year, with produce sales accounted for 36 percent of the organic market. Currently, nearly13 percent of all the produce sold in the United States is organic.
Nielsen further found that today's organic produce shopper tends to be more kid-focused than the average produce shopper, and that most of these purchasers – 77 percent – go to their preferred grocery store or supermarket chain to stock up on organic fruits and vegetables.

“Data show that the organic shopper is an extremely health-conscious consumer who is completely dedicated to eating fresh fruits and vegetables,” observed Batcha. “Organic is a top choice because of the confidence in organic as the choice to avoid foods grown with toxic and persistent pesticides

"Because of this health-driven commitment, retailers should not be afraid to differentiate organic produce on their store shelves,” she continued. “Shoppers recognize the USDA Organic seal and respond to positive messaging about what organic delivers, but at the end of the day, they want to fill their carts with farm fresh foods – benefiting the entire produce section of the store.”

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