Total organic fresh produce sales for the third quarter of 2021 saw a continuation of year-over-year growth, increasing by 3% from the same period last year and nearing $2.3 billion for the quarter, according to the Q3 2021 Organic Produce Performance Report by Organic Produce Network and Category Partners.
“As foodservice sectors continued to reopen, the third quarter of 2021 generated growth in organic fresh produce sales at retail, despite a comp period of Q3 2020 that was highlighted by pandemic-driven shopping, which continued to distort traditional consumer purchasing behavior,” says Organic Produce Network.
Organic dollar sales increased by 3.4% from the third quarter of last year, totaling $2.291 billion for the quarter, with organic volume growing by 1.6% in the quarter compared with the same period last year. By contrast, conventionally grown fresh produce sales grew by 1.3% for that period, while volume declined 2.3% compared with the third quarter of 2020.
Berries remain the strongest performers, notes the report, which finds the organic berry category (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries) was the No. 1 organic segment in dollar sales for the third quarter 2021, with an 11% increase in dollar growth over the same period last year, topping $407 million for the quarter. The berry category also saw volume growth for the quarter, up 7.3% compared to the third quarter 2020.
According to the report, which used Nielsen retail scan data covering total food sales and outlets in the U.S. over the months of July, August and September, apples showed the largest sales dollar increase for the third quarter of 2021, up 12.7% from the same period last year. Lettuce (up 6.3%), citrus (up 5.7%), and bananas (up 3.8%) delivered volume gains, while packaged salad volume was down slightly (-0.8%) for the quarter.
Interestingly, the Organic Produce Network finds that three categories—berries, apples, and packaged salads—accounted for 85% of all organic fresh produce dollar growth in the third quarter of 2021 compared to the same period last year.
“The good news is Q3, 2021 continued to generate year over year growth in organic produce sales despite the Q3, 2020 comp period driven by pandemic buying behavior,” said Steve Lutz, SVP of insights and innovation at Category Partners, in a statement. “It is encouraging to note that even though consumer purchases of conventional produce were lower than Q3 of last year, organic produce continues to generate growth—an indication that the longer-term trend of consumers moving toward organic produce continues to grow as organic’s share of the market rises.”
The top 10 organic produce categories showed mixed results in both sales and volume for the second quarter of 2021, with berries, apples, packaged salads, lettuce, bananas, lettuce, and carrots registering sales dollar gains, while herbs, tomatoes, citrus, and potatoes showed modest declines. Berries were also the star performer in volume growth, joining bananas, apples, onions, citrus, and lettuce in gains for the quarter, notes the Organic Produce Network.
Regionally speaking, organic performance was weakest in the Northeast during the quarter, where dollars grew 3.8% on stronger pricing, though volume fell by 1.5%. All other regions showed modest dollar and volume increases from the same period last year. Overall organic performance was strongest in the South, where dollar sales jumped by 4.7%, and volume increased by 3.4% in the third quarter 2021 as compared with third-quarter 2020.
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