US organic market stabilises after pandemic-led growth surge 


Following an unprecedented year marked by pantry loading and supply shortages, the US organic industry returned to more stable, buy-as-you-need shopping patterns in 2021, according to the Organic Trade Association’s (OTA) latest Organic Industry Survey

Between 2020 and 2021, organic sales surpassed $63 billion, with $1.4 billion (2 percent) total growth over the year. Food sales, which comprise over 90 percent of organic sales, rose to $57.5 billion (roughly 2 percent growth), and non-food sales reached $6 billion in sales (7 percent growth). 

“Like every other industry, organic has been through many twists and turns over the last few years, but the industry’s resilience and creativity has kept us going strong,” says OTA CEO and executive director Tom Chapman. 

“In 2020, organic significantly increased its market foothold as Americans took a closer look at the products in their home and gravitated toward healthier choices. When pandemic purchasing habits and supply shortages began to ease in 2021, we saw the strongest performance from categories that were able to remain flexible, despite the shifting landscape. That ability to adapt and stay responsive to consumer and producer needs is a key part of organic’s continued growth and success.” 

  • Organic fruits and vegetables accounted for 15 percent of the total product market and brought in over $21 billion in revenue in 2021; an approximately 4.5 percent increase over 2020.
  • After hitting the highest growth rate in over a decade in 2020, the organic dairy and egg category unsurprisingly leveled off in 2021 as supply scares became less frequent
  • Packaged and prepared organic foods experienced an overall decline of around 5 percent in 2021, representing a shift away from pantry loading and toward more measured purchasing patterns.
  • Organic baby food, which saw over 11 percent growth ($1.2 billion in sales) was the biggest bright spot in the packaged and prepared category in 2021.
  • Organic beverages experienced strong growth (8 percent, the highest of all major categories) over 2021 thanks to the category’s ability to remain nimble and adjust quickly to shifting consumer needs and habits. 
  • Organic bread and grains sales tapered off slightly in 2021 as the pandemic baking boom subsided, but sales were still strong at $6.2 billion overall. Frozen and fresh breads, the largest subcategory, saw a modest increase of 1.6 percent.

• In non-food, fibre, supplements, and personal care products have been the most dominant performers; each saw growth rates of between 5.5-8.5 percent in 2021. Textiles, the largest non-food sub-category, represented 40 percent of the category’s total sales and brought in $2.3 billion in annual sales. Overall, non-food products saw six percent growth in 2021 and represented nearly $6 billion in sales.  

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash