The US Organic Trade Association (OTA) has set new benchmarks for organic product sales growth with its annual survey putting 2017 organic growth at six times the overall food market, while the Farm Bill introduced by the Senate Agriculture Committee in June recognized the opportunities organic provides for the farm and food economy. 

"The Senate Farm Bill provides important measures that will enable the organic sector to continue advancing, and we thank the Senate Agriculture Committee for their historical investment in organic agriculture," CEO and executive director of the OTA, Laura Batcha said.

According to the OTA's Organic Industry Survey in May, organic sales in the US reached a new record of US$49.4 billion in 2017, up 6.4 percent from the previous year and reflected new sales of nearly $3.5 billion. The organic food market hit $45.2 billion in sales, a 6.4 percent increase. Sales of organic non-food products rose by 7.4 percent to $4.2 billion, setting another benchmark.

While the growth rate for organic food sales was below 2016’s nine percent, it was well above the overall food market, which nudged up 1.1 percent. Organic continued to increase its penetration into the total food market and now accounts for 5.5 percent of the food sold in retail channels in the US.

Ms. Batcha said: “Our survey shows there are now certified organic products in the marketplace representing all stages of the life cycle of a product or a company—from industry veterans to start-ups that are pioneering leading-edge innovation and benefits and getting shelf space for the first time. Consumers love organic, and now we’re able to choose organic in practically every aisle in the store.”

This year marks the 20th year of the Organic Trade Association’s survey, the most comprehensive view of the US retail organic sector. In 1997, organic food sales were pegged at $3.4 billion; 2017’s sales of over $45 billion reflect the growth of nearly 15 times. And in the last decade, the US organic market has more than doubled in size.

“The organic food market will see a steadier pace of growth as it matures,” Ms. Batcha added. “Demand for organic is flourishing as consumers seek out nutritious and clean food that is good for their health and the environment."

Fruits and vegetables continued to be the largest organic food category, recording $16.5 billion in sales in 2017 (5.3 percent growth), with fresh produce 90 percent of sales. Organic dried beans, along with dried fruits and vegetables, were a stand-out subsector in the category, increasing by nine percent and reflecting the growing demand for legumes and plant-based products.

The second-largest selling organic category, organic dairy, and eggs grew just 0.9 percent to $6.5 billion as many producers entered the organic dairy market and demand shifted to more plant-based offerings. However, rises were seen in organic ice cream sales (over 9 percent) and organic cheese (almost 8 percent).

Organic beverage sales rose 10.5 percent last year to $5.9 billion, making beverages the third-largest organic category. Non-dairy organic beverage alternatives in the form of almond, soy, coconut, rice and other blends also grew in 2017.

In the organic non-food market, organic fiber continues to be the largest and fastest-growing sector in the category – up 11 percent to $1.6 billion, with most sales in organic cotton. Organic dietary supplements rose nine percent as demand increased for whole food or plant-based supplements.