The organic food industry in 2020

17th September 2020  

by Sammy Squatriti

This year's unprecedented pandemic and its enormous impact on our daily lives has already had strong consequences for the organic sector in 2020. While consumers are looking for healthy food produced under strict hygiene rules to feed their families, organic food is proving to be the preferred food for the home.

Never before has the food we provide to our families been so important, and consumers have turned to the trusted organic label. Many categories of organic food have seen their demand explode. Sales of organic products, for example, after having risen more than 50% in the first days of the crisis, when the race to supply the kitchen had started, increased by more than 20% in spring 2020. Other categories that have experienced softer growth have nonetheless seen big increases in their demand: the food rush has led to a strong demand for organic milk, for example, and similarly sales of organic eggs have skyrocketed. Packaged and frozen organic foods have reported double-digit growth, as consumers have increased their meal preparation at home.

Frozen food and ready-to-cook products are still flying off the shelves. Although Covid had initially disrupted supply chains, frozen food sales have seen an incredible upsurge as the panicked public piled up all the essential items. As a result, the frozen food market has performed well after the start of the new coronavirus. The market also benefits from the fact that frozen foods are able to maintain their nutritional value over a long period of time and, in turn, help reduce the number of times consumers have to go to the store.

However, consumers eat more organic food and use more organic products than ever before, according to the 2020 organic industry survey published by the Organic Trade Association. The U.S. organic sector had an exceptional year in 2019, with organic sales in food and non-food markets totalling a record $55.1 billion, up 5 percent from the previous year.

Food and non-food markets broke key benchmarks.

Organic food sales reached $50.1 billion, an increase of 4.6%. Non-food organic sales totalled just over $5 billion, a sharp increase of 9.2%. Both sectors easily outpaced the overall market growth rate of about 2% for total food sales and just 3% for total non-food sales.

“Our 2020 survey looks at organic sales in 2019 before the coronavirus outbreak, and it shows that consumers were increasingly seeking out the Organic label to feed their families the healthiest food possible. The pandemic has only increased our desire for clean, healthy food,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic trade association. “Our normal lives have been brought to a screeching halt by the coronavirus. The commitment to the Organic label has always resided at the intersection of health and safety, and we expect that commitment to strengthen as we all get through these unsettled times.”

The association also conducted an online flash survey of 3,188 "likely organic" buyers between the end of April and the beginning of May. More than 90 percent of respondents indicated that in their current food spending, organic is more important than ever.