Organic Produce Making a Comeback

Sales and volume edge up again in Q3
Marian Zboraj
Digital Editor
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Organic Produce Department
Organic produce sales increased by 2% in the third quarter.

For the second quarter in a row, organic fresh produce grew slightly in year-over-year sales and volume in the third quarter of 2023, according to the “Q3 2023 Organic Produce Performance Report” issued by Organic Produce Network and Category Partners.

Overall, organic fresh produce dollar sales and volume increased by 2% and 1.9%, respectively, for third quarter compared to the same period last year, with sales for the quarter topping $2.44 billion and volume movement at 733 million pounds. Conventional produce dollar sales and volume showed similar year-over-year gains, with sales up 2.4% and a volume increase of 1.8%.

In a period of continued inflationary pressure, price increases in each segment were considerably less compared to the past two years. Conventional produce average price per pound grew by 0.6% compared to the third quarter of 2022, while organic pricing per pound rose by a mere 0.1%. Overall, the average price per pound for the total produce department increased by only 1 cent compared to the same period last year.

"The growth in organic produce volume slightly outpacing conventional produce reflects the continued consumer interest in healthier and sustainable food choices, reaffirming the vitality of the organic industry in today's market," said Tom Barnes, CEO of of Idaho Falls, Idaho-based  Category Partners. "It's also heartening to see organics making a comeback after grappling with inflationary pressures in recent years."

In the third quarter of this year, 15 of the top 20 organic fresh produce categories posted increases in dollar sales compared to the same period last year. The organic berry category (which includes strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries) led overall dollar sales with $461 million for the quarter, representing a year-over-year increase of 6.9%. Organic broccoli saw the largest sales jump, up 14% from the same period last year.

Q3 2023 Organic Produce Performance Report
(Image credit: Organic Produce Network and Category Partners)

The second-largest dollar category — packaged salads — experienced a decline of 5.4% in sales in the third quarter of this year compared to the same period in 2022, with total sales of $362 million.

Meanwhile, volume gains for the quarter were seen in 12 of the top 20 categories, including double-digit growth for broccoli and watermelon. Organic celery posted the largest decline in volume (down 21%), followed by peaches (dropping 16%) and packaged salads (down 6.4%). Bananas continued to remain the largest volume category.

[Read more: "How Whole Foods Market Remains an Organic Trailblazer"]

Geographically, every region saw year-over-year increases in dollar sales, with the South showing the largest gain at 4%. The West region was the only area to see a decrease in volume and an increase in price per pound. 

The “Q3 2023 Organic Produce Performance Report” covers total food sales in the United States including all outlets (i.e., supermarkets, mass merchandisers, club stores, dollar stores, convenience stores, and military commissaries) from July 2 to Sept. 30 compared to the same period last year. The full report is available online.

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