Washington, D.C.—Pantry loading and supply shortages were a major issue during the pandemic, but the Organic Trade Association (OTA) reports that its latest Organic Industry Survey shows consumers returned to more stable, buy-as-you-need shopping patterns in 2021. Among the findings shared by OTA in a press release:
  • Between 2020 and 2021, organic sales surpassed $63 billion, growing 2% with $1.4 billion total growth over the year
  • Food sales, which make up more than 90% of organic sales, grew roughly 2%, rising to $57.5 billion
  • Non-food sales grew 7% to reach $6 billion in sales

 2021 Organic Industry Survey Shows Steady Growth, Stabilizing Purchasing Patterns

“Like every other industry, organic has been through many twists and turns over the last few years, but the industry’s resilience and creativity has kept us going strong,” said OTA CEO and Executive Director Tom Chapman, in the release. “In 2020, organic significantly increased its market foothold as Americans took a closer look at the products in their home and gravitated toward healthier choices. When pandemic purchasing habits and supply shortages began to ease in 2021, we saw the strongest performance from categories that were able to remain flexible, despite the shifting landscape. That ability to adapt and stay responsive to consumer and producer needs is a key part of organic’s continued growth and success.”

Taking a closer look at key categories:

Organic Fruits & Vegetables

Organic fruits and vegetables accounted for 15% of the total product market. The category grew approximately 4.5% over 2020, brining in more than $21 billion in revenue in 2021. Driving that growth: fresh produce and dried beans, fruits, and vegetables. Frozen and canned foods declined slightly, which OTA attributes to consumers reducing pantry loading.

Organic Dairy, Eggs, and Meat 

The organic dairy and egg category, which OTA reports hit the highest growth rate in over a decade in 2020, leveled off in 2021 as concerns about supply shortages eased. Still, the category outperformed 2019 sales by nearly 11%. Organic meat sales increased 2.5% in 2021, representing nearly $2 billion in annual sales. Driving growth: Organic poultry, climbing 4.7% with over $1 billion in sales. OTA projected that organic dairy, eggs, and meat are likely to be further bolstered by the recently finalized Origin of Livestock (OOL) rule and the pending Organic Livestock Poultry Standards(OLPS) proposed rule. (Read more here:USDA Publishes Origin of Livestock Final Rule).

Organic Packaged and Prepared Foods, Snacks

As OTA reports, packaged and prepared organic foods declined roughly 5% in 2021, as pantry loading eased. The biggest bright spot in this category: Organic baby food, which grew more than 11% ($1.2 billion in sales). "Baby food has traditionally been a strong point of entry for shoppers new to organic," OTA shared, "and the sub-category has continued to be a notable innovator."  On the snack side, OTA attributed the growth of six% ($3.3 billion in sales) to the fact that offices, gyms, schools, and many other destinations are reopening, so more Americans began looking for healthy, organic foods on the go.

Organic Beverages

Showing the strongest growth of all major categories: organic beverages, with a climb of 8% over 2021. OTA noted that this is thanks to the category's ability to adjust quickly to shifting consumer needs and habits. Organic coffee topped the beverage list, with more than 5% growth and over $2 billion in annual sales.  

Organic Breads and Grains

#QuarantineBaking lead to a boom in the organic bread and grains category in 2020, but sales slowed in 2021, though still strong at $6.2 billion. OTA suggested that this category may continue to struggle as the war in Ukraine and other serious domestic and international issues constrain supply chains.  

Non-Food Products

Overall, non-food products saw 6% growth in 2021 with nearly $6 billion in sales. Fiber, supplements, and personal care products each saw growth rates of between 5.5% to 8.5% in 2021. Textiles represented 40% of the category’s total sales and brought in $2.3 billion in annual sales. 

Related: OTA Testifies Before the House Ag Committee, Looking Forward to 2023 Farm Bill USDA Publishes Origin of Livestock Final Rule OTA Asks Court to Reinstate Animal Welfare Standards

“Organic’s ability to retain the market footholds gained during 2020 and continue to grow despite unprecedented challenges and uncertainty is a testament to the strength of our industry and our products,” Chapman said. “To keep organic strong, the industry will need to continue developing innovative solutions to supply chain weaknesses and prioritizing efforts to engage and educate organic shoppers and businesses. OTA is excited to continue serving as a leading voice and champion for organic, particularly as we approach the 2023 Farm Bill.”