May 8, 2018
First quarter organic fresh produce sales start strong in 2018
Gary Pullano

Organic fresh produce sales started the year strong with eight percent dollar and volume growth compared to the first quarter of 2017, according to the Organic Produce Network (OPN).  Organic packaged salads remain the category driver, responsible for 19 percent of all organic fresh produce sales. Behind packaged salad sales were organic berries and apples, with the three categories making up 40 percent of all organic fresh produce sales for the quarter.

Teaming with marketing research firm Nielsen, the Organic Produce Network analysis of organic fresh produce sales at retail stores across the country for the first quarter of 2018 showed organic fresh vegetables accounted for a larger portion of organic dollars than fruits ($632  million vs $400  million).  Other organic items sold in the produce department including herbs, spices, beverages and dressings totaled $205 million, according to Nielsen, for a total of over $1.2 billion in organic produce sales for the quarter.

Organic berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries) continue to see explosive growth, making up 13.5 percent ($166 million) of all organic fresh produce sales and over 40 percent of all organic fruit sales.   More importantly, the organic berry category realized a 21 percent increase in dollars vs last Q1 of 2017 and a 26 percent growth in volume compared to a year ago.

“Organic fresh produce continues to be a major revenue generator at retail.  In addition to berries, organic potatoes, mushrooms, herbs/spices, beverages and avocadoes all increased by double digits in both dollar and sales volume compared to the first quarter of last year,” said Matt Seeley, CEO of OPN. “At the same time, per Nielsen data, conventionally grown berries, beverages mushrooms, potatoes and herbs/spices were all flat or declined in volume sales.”

Organic packaged salads continue to dominate organic fresh vegetables sales, topping a quarter billion dollars in the first quarter of 2018.   According to Nielsen data, more than 80 percent of organic produce dollars come from UPC items (like packaged salads and berries), compared to only 57 percent for conventionally grown produce items. 

According to Matt Lally, client manager for Nielsen, the first quarter numbers reflect continued growth for all organic fresh produce.  “Parents and millennials have led the surge in sales which could prove quite the combination in the coming years as more millennials become parents,” he said.  “Today’s consumer is interested in eating simpler, cleaner products and this is seen in the continued growth of organic fresh produce.”


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