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% of all organic fresh produce sales. Behind packaged salad sales were organic berries and apples, with the three categories making up 40% of all organic fresh produce sales for the quarter.
Teaming with marketing research firm Nielsen, OPN 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% ($166 million) of all organic fresh produce sales and over 40% of all organic fruit sales. The organic berry category realized a 21% increase in dollars vs. Q1 of 2017 and a 26% growth in volume.
“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 OPN CEO Matt Seeley. “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% of organic produce dollars come from UPC items (like packaged salads and berries), compared to only 57% for conventionally grown produce items.
the first quarter numbers reflect continued growth for all organic fresh produce, said Nielsen Client Manager Matt Lally, explaining “Parents and millennials have led the surge in sales which could prove quite the combination in the coming years as more millennials become parents. Today’s consumer is interested in eating simpler, cleaner products and this is seen in the continued growth of organic fresh produce.”