Organic fresh produce sales up, continue to outpace conventional
Total organic fresh produce sales for the third quarter of 2021 saw a continuation of year-over-year growth, increasing by 3 percent from the same period last year and nearing $2.3 billion for the quarter, according to the Q3 2021 Organic Produce Performance Report released exclusively by Organic Produce Network and Category Partners.
As foodservice sectors continued to reopen, the third quarter of 2021 generated growth in organic fresh produce sales at retail, despite a comp period of Q3 2020 that was highlighted by pandemic driven shopping which continued to distort traditional consumer purchasing behavior. Organic dollar sales increased by 3.4 percent from Q3 of last year, totaling $2.291 billion for the quarter, with organic volume growing by 1.6 percent in Q3 2021 compared to the same period last year. By contrast, conventionally grown fresh produce sales grew by 1.3 percent in Q3 2021 while volume declined 2.3 percent compared to Q3 2020.
The organic berry category, which includes strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, reigned as the No. 1 organic segment in dollar sales for Q3 2021, with an 11 percent increase in dollar growth over the same period last year, topping $407 million for the quarter. The berry category also saw volume growth for the quarter, up 7.3 percent compared to Q3 2020. Apples showed the largest sales dollar increase for Q3 2021, up 12.7 percent from the same period last year. Lettuce (up 6.3 percent), citrus (up 5.7 percent) and bananas (up 3.8 percent) delivered volume gains, with packaged salad volume down slightly (0.8 percent) for the quarter. Three categories — berries, apples and packaged salads — accounted for 85 percent of all organic fresh produce dollar growth in Q3 2021 compared to the same period last year.
“The good news is Q3 2021 continued to generate year over year growth in organic produce sales despite the Q3 2020 comp period driven by pandemic buying behavior,” said Steve Lutz, senior vice president of insights and innovation at Category Partners. “It is encouraging to note that even though consumer purchases of conventional produce were lower than Q3 of last year, organic produce continues to generate growth — an indication that the longer-term trend of consumers moving toward organic produce continues to grow as organic’s share of the market rises.”
The top 10 organic produce categories showed mixed results in both sales and volume for the second quarter of 2021, with berries, apples, packaged salads, lettuce, bananas, lettuce and carrots registering sales dollar gains, while herbs, tomatoes, citrus and potatoes showed modest declines. Berries were also the star performer in volume growth, joining bananas, apples, onions, citrus and lettuce in gains for the quarter.
Organic performance was weakest in the northeast during Q3 2021 where dollars grew 3.8 percent on stronger pricing, while volume fell by 1.5 percent. All other regions showed modest dollar and volume increases from the same period last year. Overall organic performance was strongest in the south, where dollar sales jumped by 4.7 percent, and volume increased by 3.4 percent in Q3 2021 compared to Q3 2020.
The Q3 2021 Organic Produce Performance Report utilized Nielsen retail scan data covering total food sales and outlets in the U.S. over the months of July, August and September. The full Q3 2021 Organic Produce Performance Report is available on the Organic Produce Network website.