In a recently updated Organic Market Overview, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports the market for organic foods is now “mainstream,” with organic sales accounting for more than 3 percent of total U.S. food sales.
Three percent may seem like a small piece of the pie, but that small piece resulted in $21.1 billion of sales in 2008 alone and is estimated to reach $23 billion in 2009, according to the Nutrition Business Journal.
Organic food is sold to consumers via three main venues in the U.S.:
- Conventional grocery stores- Nearly three of every four conventional grocery stores offer organic food products for sale.
- Natural food stores- Approximately 20,000 natural food stores offer organic products for sale in the U.S.
- Direct-to-consumer markets- This includes farmers’ markets, foodservice and marketing channels other than retail stores.
The Organic Trade Association (OTA) estimates 93 percent of all organic food sales occur through conventional and natural food supermarkets and chains.
A few common themes have occurred in various studies conducted by researchers in the public and private sectors regarding the buying habits and demographics of consumers of organic foods.
Consumers often prefer organic food products because of concerns regarding health, the environment and animal welfare and are willing to pay the price premiums associated with the products.
As stated in the overview, “organic products have shifted from being a lifestyle choice for a small share of consumers to being consumed at least occasionally by a majority of Americans.”
American food producers struggle to meet the demand of an increasing consumer base. Though certified organic acreage has doubled in the U.S. since 1997, organic food sales have grown much faster, increasing from 3.6 billion to 21.1 in the same period.