U.S.: Organic produce sales rose by 5% to $18bn in 2019

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U.S.: Organic produce sales rose by 5% to $18bn in 2019

Organic produce sales in the U.S. rose by nearly 5% in 2019 to US$18bn, driving an increase in total organic food sales, according to an industry body.

The Organic Trade Association said produce "continues to be the star" of the organic sector, making up almost a third of all organic food sales in the country.

"[The] category continues to be the star of the organic sector, and often the starting point for organic food buying," said the OTA's Maggie McNeil.

"Millennials and younger generations have grown up with organic, and remain the growth drivers for this category."

The U.S. organic sector posted a banner year in 2019, with organic sales in the food and non-food markets totaling a record US$55.1bn, up 5% from the previous year.

She added that organic produce sales were up by more than 20% in the spring amid the Covid-19 pandemic, which she said has had "dramatic consequences for the organic sector."

In May, the OTA released the results of a poll looking at organic sales in 2019 before the pandemic, which shows that consumers were seeking out organic products.

"The pandemic has only increased our desire for clean, healthy food,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director of the Organic Trade Association.

“Our normal lives have been brought to a screeching halt by the coronavirus. The commitment to the Organic label has always resided at the intersection of health and safety, and we expect that commitment to strengthen as we all get through these unsettled times.”

McNeil added that it was unclear how the Covid-19 pandemic could affect organic sales in the coming months. She said that while there were certain growth trajectories taking shape going into 2020, the onset of Covid-19 "turned the organic food marketplace upside down early in the year".

"Prior to 2020, the organic market has been growing steadily year over year. The U.S. economy has been battered by the pandemic, and experts say there are a few ways that could play out for organic," McNeil said.

"Because people are price-sensitive, there could be a slowdown in the growth of organic sales. Or, because people are increasingly aware of their health and looking for cleaner products, they may be willing to invest in premium products."

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