We’re almost back to double-digit growth. The Organic Trade Association ’s annual industry survey  found that sales of all organic products grew 9.5% last year, to more than $31 billion ($31.5 billion, to be exact).
Of that total, food and beverage sales totaled $29.2 billion (up 9.4% over the year prior), while non-food sales came in at $2.2 billion. Organic food sales now represent 4.2% of all U.S. food sales, up from 4% in 2010, OTA’s research found.
OTA’s executive director and CEO, Christine Bushway, thinks that food awareness (where it comes from, who makes it) is forcing American consumers to rethink the way they shop — and for what.
“For them, it matters whether foods are genetically engineered, or produced using practices that are good for their families,” she said.
No surprise that fresh produce contributed close to half of the growth dollars. Yet, produce isn’t the fastest-growing category. That would be meat and seafood, which posted a combined 13% percent increase over 2010 sales, but of a small base. Proteins remain the smallest of the eight organic food categories covered by the survey.
The improving economy likely helped drive shoppers to seek out organic more often, though there enough food scares to influence them even more, Bushway said.
“Price is still an issue, but with the wide availability of private label products and many venues for organic products, they have many choices for where to shop and a variety of products from which to choose," she said.
Among some other interesting findings:
· 78% of U.S. families are currently purchasing organic products.
· 94% of organic operations plan to maintain or increase employment in 2012.
· 6% of all dairy consumed in the U.S. is organic
· There were 17,600 certified organic farms and businesses in 2011.
Not by coincidence, the sunny outlook was delivered during the OTA’s annual lobbying trek to Capitol Hill. There’s plenty to chew on, that’s for sure.