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Green Growth: Organics continue to flourish

PBP Organic spotlight 2024

More than two decades after the U.S. Department of Agriculture implemented standards for organic production and processing, the category has zoomed from niche to mainstream status.

And there seems to be no slowdown in sight, the agency says.

In November 2023, the USDA reported that organic producers had increased market access to the point that conventional grocery retailers had overtaken natural food stores as the most popular outlet for organic food, with 55.6 percent of sales in 2021.

Produce has led the way, USDA reported, with organic fruits and vegetables passing $22 billion in retail food sales 2022—good for about 36 percent of all organic retail sales, according to the Organic Trade Association.

Foresight and Fortitude

The success of the category is no surprise to some. Grower-shippers and marketers say they recognized the organics trend long ago and have helped steadily steer more fruit, vegetable, and nut volumes into the organics category.

For example, USDA noted fruit and nut acreage increased 76 percent between 2011 and 2021, as growers heeded increasing demand from consumers.

“Overall, our organic manifest makes up about 20 percent of our total volume,” shares Kaci Komstadius, vice president of marketing with Sage Fruit Company, LLC BB #:163180. The Yakima, WA-based company grows and ships apples, pears, and cherries.

“The demand for organic fresh produce has remained strong,” she asserts. “As such, we’ve made investments to expand our overall organics program.”

Wenatchee, WA-based grower-shipper Stemilt Growers, LLC BB #:113654 recognized the potential of organics more than 30 years ago and has been gradually building its organic footprint, according to Brianna Shales, marketing director.

Stemilt first got into organic fruit production in 1989, Shales notes, and the company now grows apples, pears, cherries, and stone fruit in Washington State and cherries in California and Washington.

This is an excerpt from the Organic Spotlight story from the May/June 2024 issue of Produce Blueprints Magazine.