Organic Industry Sees Growth

Sales of organic food and non-food products increased in 2010, and the industry expects to continue rising this year.

by Dani Yokhna
Organic produce
Courtesy BananaStock/JupiterImages/
The largest organic sector, fruits and vegetables, grew by nearly 12 percent in 2010.

The organic industry grew at a rate of nearly 8 percent in 2010, bucking the current trend whereby “flat is the new growth” for many other segments of the economy. In 2010, the organic industry grew to more than $28.6 billion. Further, some sectors of the organic market enjoyed annual growth of more than 30 percent, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) revealed in its 2011 Organic Industry Survey.

“While total U.S. food sales grew by less than 1 percent in 2010, the organic food industry grew by 7.7 percent,” says Christine Bushway, OTA’s CEO and executive director. “Consumers continue to vote with their dollars in favor of the organic choice. These results illustrate the positive contribution organic agriculture and trade make to our economy and particularly to rural livelihoods.”

Organic fruits and vegetables, which represent 39.7 percent of total organic food value and nearly 12 percent of all U.S. fruit and vegetable sales, experienced the most growth. It reached nearly $10.6 billion in 2010, up 11.8 percent from 2009 performance.

Organic dairy, the second-largest category, experienced 9 percent growth from 2009 to achieve a value of $3.9 billion and capture nearly 6 percent of the total U.S. market for dairy products.

Organic supplements led the organic non-food sector with a value of $681 million, representing 7.4 percent growth. Organic fiber (linen and clothing) totaled a value of $605 million, achieving 16 percent year-over-year growth. Personal-care products, at $490 million, increased 6.6 percent from 2009.

“The good news is that even as the economic recovery crawls forward, the organic industry is thriving—and hiring,” Bushway says.

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In 2010, 40 percent of surveyed organic companies reported positive full-time employment growth. Companies with fewer than five employees were least likely to add full-time employees. About half of companies with more than 50 employees experienced positive full-time employment growth. What’s more, 46 percent of respondents anticipate an increase in employment in 2011. In addition, 50 percent expect employment to remain even, and only 5 percent foresee a decrease.

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