SNAPSHOT: Organic price premium narrows at retail

I saw an article from the Washington Post that suggests supplies of organic items are catching up to conventional, helping narrow the price gap.

This is something we’ll see come up again and again, especially as organic produce continues to gain ground at retail. The most recent numbers from Nielsen and the Organic Produce Network suggest dramatic growth in items like blueberries, grapes, bananas and apples, despite being more mature categories in organic produce.

The WaPo article itself was a little thin on fresh produce price comparisons, so I decided to check the most recent USDA Market News National Retail Report for Conventional vs. Organic.

This weekly publication now includes a pretty robust data offering from promotions in more than 29,000 stores across the U.S.

The Feb. 5 report tracked a total of 336,867 items on ad, with just over 10% of those – 34,589 – marked organic in fruits and vegetables.

It shouldn’t surprise you that fruits and vegetables far outpace other fresh categories when it comes to the percentage of ads marked organic. In livestock (pork and beef) only 1% of the 247,520 ads were organic. Poultry was slightly higher at just under 4% of 141,021 ads marked organic, and diary came in at just under 6% of 86,036 ads marked organic.

Price premium is all over the place. In fruit, for example, a few items cost less than conventional, like tangelos, navel orange 4-pound bags, bagged grapefruit and bagged red delicious apples.

The largest price differential was in organic lemons sold by the pound, which were 461% higher than conventional.

In vegetables, roma tomatoes, mushrooms, and baby peeled carrots were all markedly cheaper in organic, and larger packaged salads, vine ripe tomatoes and field cucumbers showed the highest price differential.

While this is only a one-week snapshot, I think it’s a valuable look at what’s happening across the country.

Pamela Riemenschneider is the Retail Editor for Blue Book Services.