Organic fresh produce sales reached $1.16 billion for the third quarter of 2017, an 8% increase in dollars and 10% rise in volume from the previous year, according to the Organic Produce Network (OPN).
Partnering with Nielsen, OPN’s review of third quarter sales at U.S. retail stores shows dollar sales of organic fresh vegetables were $576 million; organic fresh fruit sales, $408 million; and other produce items (e.g., herbs/seasonings, beverages, dressings), $173 million. Collectively, organic fresh fruits and vegetables represented 10.2% of all produce dollars at the end of the third quarter. Compared to a year ago, sales of organic fruit were up 8.3%, while sales of organic vegetables rose 6.2%.
“The dollar gains we are seeing across the board can be directly attributed to the growing demand for transparent products across the store,” says Matt Lally, client manager for Nielsen Fresh. “Beyond this, the increasing availability and supply are also positively impacting sales.”
In terms of dollar share during third quarter and last year comparisons:
- the $226 million-dollar organic packaged salad category held first place, capturing 19.5% of organic produce sales. Convenience combined with stable retail prices, are said to be the two biggest factors.
- The $151 million-dollar berry category (strawberries, blueberries and raspberries) stayed at second, despite a slightly lower average retail price than last quarter. Berries, which represented 13.1% of organic produce sales in the third quarter experienced an 11.5% increase in dollars and a 9.4% in volume.
- The $71 million-dollars fresh organic herbs/spices/seasonings category, accounted for 6.2% of total organic dollars, up 17% in dollars and 18% in volume.
- The $56 million-dollar organic banana category saw an 18% dollar growth, making it the second largest fruit segment. Average retail prices, which were down nearly 6%, likely played a role.
- The $22.3 million-dollar stone fruit category was down 3.5% in dollars and nearly 14% in volume. Higher retail prices may have adversely impacted sales. Organic peaches, for example, were 62% more expensive than conventional peaches in the third quarter.
- Grapes, the third largest fruit category as measured in dollars and ranked seventh in terms of dollar share, also appears to have been impacted by higher retail prices. The $54.8 million-dollar category only saw a 3.1% increase in dollars and a 3.2% decrease in volume.
- The $45 million-dollar organic value-added fresh produce category, which experienced a slight price increase (0.6%), saw a 2.8% increase in dollars, but only a 2.2% gain in volume.
- The value-added organic vegetable segment, at $41 million, still accounts for the lion share of sales, with organic carrots, French/green beans and cooking greens the three most popular segments.
- While only at $4 million in sales, value-added fruit – led by apples, mixed fruit and cantaloupe – was up 11.4% in dollars and 9.6% in volume.
“Successful retailers are using organic produce as a point of differentiation,” said Lally, noting the most successful retailers are able to generate some 16% of produce dollars from organic varieties. However, Lally said one of the biggest keys for organic success is the price relative to the conventional item. “Historically, organic categories with more than a 50% premium over conventional produce pricing have struggled to achieve the same success.”